Last weekend hundred-thousand protested in Paris against the plans of the French government to open up marriage to same-sex couples. France already allows for civil unions between individuals of the same sex, but the now planned law would create full legal equality between same-sex couples and traditional "husband and wife"-partnerships. Including the right to adoption. It is this aspect that, above all, has driven the masses of French conservatives to the streets. While the alliance of protesters in Paris includes openly homophobic groups, many others maintain that they are not against homosexuals, they just don't want them to raise children.
One can not understand this specific kind of homophobia - the fear of homosexuals raising children - without understanding the nature of bourgeoise family.
At the core of many of the arguments of those opposing same-sex marriage is a thoroughly unjustified biologism which, a typical element of all modern ideologies rooted in liberalism, turns the specific structures of modern society into a transhistorical "human nature". The assumption "it has always been like that" is immediately turned into the belief that this is the way it should be, even before the thought has been articulated. Finally, any attempts to change this perceived human biology becomes a revolt against nature, its implications always the destruction of society by eroding its natural base.
But the family as we know it - husband, wife and their own children - is a very recent developement. It was invented alongside the developement of capitalism and it only managed to become dominant, even in the capitalist center, during the fordist revolution when productivity reached levels that even the working class could send their wifes home, instead of breaking with the bourgeoise ideals of family life out of sheer necessity. Before that a family structure dominated the lifes which was based upon the agricultural subsistence economy of the medieval era, with several generations under one roof and no seperation between domestic work and gainful activity. Back then, usually the oldest man represented the family to the outside, but he was no unquestionably powerful patriarch and while christian beliefs secured men a favourable position, women maintained a degree of independence and influence within the family structures.
Bourgeoise family changed this, not least because the bourgeoise family is a product of absolutism. Philosophers of that age wished for the family to become a mirror image of the state itself, with an unquestionably powerful patriarch at its center. Man became the king of his own small empire and much in the way that soldiers and gendarmes enforced his compliance in greater society, it was his duty to enforce the compliance of wife and children. This required smaller family units and the seperation of the generations into different households. A patriarch would likely not be able to maintain the same degree of authority if his parents stood watch over him still.
The second much needed change for the breaktrhough of the bourgeoise family was the seperation of production from reproduction. Wage-labor and industrialization took productive tasks out of the environment of the private homes and centralized them in factories. Productivity of the workers was maximised by turning women into unpaid slaves of their husbands, responsible for maintaining a functioning household for the man to return to. A place where he could recharge for the next workingday. Capitalism expropriated the labor of women through their men. The only problem was, for most of the history of capitalism, wages were just far too low for women to stay home. They were forced to go out and work to survive, but expected to maintain the household all the same.
To enforce this family structure along with its repressive sexual morals, open violence was used. The history of the creation of the modern family is also the history of witchhunts, of rape culture and domestic violence. It is interesting to note that, despite christianity at the center of its society, the medieval era maintained a certain tolerance of homosexuality. It was early modernity which demonized homosexuality and turned homosexuals into "faggots". If you have ever wondered why a term that originally meant "bundle of sticks" came to be a slur for male homosexuals - it is because in some places homosexuals were tied together and used to fire up the stakes for witches to be burnt.
Claiming to "love all homosexuals" like Virginie Tellenne did during her speech on the protest in France, yet defend an institution that had to begin a campaign of extermination against them in order to settle itself in society is thoroughly cynical. Much has changed in the recent decades and homosexuals have in many places fought succesfully for their rights. Nevertheless, their attempts to reach full legal equality must appear as dangerous attacks on the foundation of bourgeoise society to those who have found their place in it.
Worse, bourgeoise family is failing. No capitalist country where divorce rates have not steadily increased throughout the last years, in some places the majority of children are already being raised by single-mothers and, finally, those families protesting in Paris are themselves not living up to the idealized image created in the 1950s. The women are not happy in their suburban isolation and not content with satisfying the needs and desires of their husbands. The men are not happy with their working lifes and most of them can't satisfy the material needs of their families all on their own. All over the place, the traditional family comes crashing down. At least against the homosexuals the conservatives want to defend their family life.
However, it also needs to be noted that the homosexual mainstream that seeks nothing more than same-sex marriage is falling victim to the same desire for "stable families". It emulates the bourgeoise family but replaces husband and wife with a same-sex partnership. The rest remains the same. If worries arise that two men or two women can't raise healthy children, it ignores that this has never been the job of the traditional families. The traditional family was created to massproduce workers and soldiers for the needs of capitalist society and to maintain discipline through use of force against women and children.