"Un pere, une mere, c'est elementaire." This is the batte cry of La Manif Pour Tous, the French group that mobilized in opposition to gay marriage in France. Although the Hollande government did legalize gay marriage last spring, La Manif Pour Tous made a name for itself by organizing two mammoth rallies in Paris before the law passed and one after it passed, in which its spokesman Ludovine de la Rochere memorably vowed to keep fighting, invoking the spirit and the words of Charles de Gaulle, "The law is today in effect: so isn't the last word already spoken on this? Shouldn't hope disappear? Isn't your defeat definitive? No!"
Last month, La Manif's defiance paid off as hundreds of thousands of Frenchmen again peacefully marched in defense of the family in both Paris and Lyon, where the march was led by the Archbishop of Lyon, the Primate of the Gauls, Cardinal Phillippe Barbarin. The object of the protest was legislation that would have allowed homosexual couples to use in vitro fertilization or surrogate motherhood to have children. After the demonstrations, the Hollande government withdrew the legislation. Hollande is one of the least popular presidents in the history of the Fifth Republic, and La Manif has positioned itself to demand the repeal of the gay marriage legislation when the French Socialists inevitably lose power. La Manif has shown that it can rally large numbers of Frenchmen to its cause, and, as a result, it will be able to extract a commitment to repeal the gay marriage law from Hollande's opponents.
The contrast between the supposedly defeatist French and America's conservative commentariat could not be more striking. On March 1, Ross Douthat's column in The New York Times argued that not only was the gay marriage battle lost, but that the only question was what terms would be imposed by the victorious gay marriage proponents. Douthat hoped that they would let American Christians hide quietly in catacombs of their own making, but feared that the civil rights laws would be used to go after American Christians. Lots of other conservative commentators jumped on Douthat's bandwagon, eagerly waving the white flags they had, in most cases, long since unfurled.
Of course, none of these commentators argued that it was worth fighting against what they portrayed as the gay marriage juggernaut. After all, defeatism on gay marriage has become the requirement for respectability in Manhattan and DC. Nor did any of these commentators even suggest that, if gay marriage proponents do try to use the power of the state to bully American Christians into recognizing gay marriage in their churches and other institutions, this obvious tyranny could be used to discredit the push for gay marriage.
In doing this, these commentators merely revealed how useless their professed conservatism is. If they won't fight to conserve the foundational unit of all human society, what will they fight to conserve? After all, as the French say, "Un pere, une mere, c'est elementaire."
Thomas Piatak is a contributing editor to Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He writes from Cleveland, Ohio.