Just when you thought the French gay marriage debate couldn’t get any more
childish, a particularly unenlightened Subway franchisee (of all people!) comes
along and lets you know that the abyss of petty bigotry is, in fact,
protest marches were silly and disappointing enough, but protest marches
are such a common sight in France that I guess it’s not that
“amendment battle” waged by the conservative UMP party in
the Assemblée Nationale—which involved the presentation of over 5000
amendment proposals to the gay marriage law, including additions that would
have us legalize bigamy and incest along with gay marriage—was ridiculous and
wasteful, but behavior like this is business as usual in modern lawmaking
In any case,
the law finally passed and now awaits only formal approval by the French
Senate and perhaps a hopeless attempt by the UMP to have it declared
unconstitutional. Gay marriage is here, folks. Finally.
So it’s done, right? Time to move on to other, more pressing concerns, like
whatever the hell the French army is doing in Mali, right?
Thursday morning, St. Valentine’s Day customers at a
Subway restaurant in the Loire Valley city of
Angers were greeted with the sign pictured on the right,
posted in the store window offering a special discount for couples…but only
if said couples consist of a man and a woman.
Underneath this brilliant bit of marketing, in small print, we find the
explanation (I did not attempt to translate the banjaxed French contained
“Is this discrimination (?): No…the marriage equality law may
have moved forward, but it has not yet been ratified by the Senate. Until it
is, I am employing the law of freedom of expression.”
Wow, I didn’t know that the great great great great grandson of
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was running a Subway in the Loire
Some good has come out of this, however:
- The Subway mothership, genuinely embarrassed (and no doubt concerned by the
nearly immediate calls on various social media networks for a boycott of Subway
immediately published an apology and, to put some oomph behind it,
voluntarily shut the store down Friday afternoon, hitting the feckless
franchisee in the only place where he’s likely to feel any regret;
- The editors of Le Monde were given the opportunity to be clever—always a
potential show-stopper—leading off the breaking story with the title,
INDIGESTIBLE: Subway Restaurant Closed for Homophobic Discrimination;
- Hooray for social media (did I really just write that?)!
As told by Le Parisien, it was first Twitter and then Facebook that enabled both an immediate
response from gay rights groups and Subway brass, as well as facilitating the
immortalization of the incredibly poor taste of a Sandwich Artist gone wrong,
- The fact that someone, somewhere in France has even considered the idea of
bringing his or her sweetheart to Subway for Valentine’s Day has been revealed
to public health authorities and social scientists alike.
Nothing like a debate over a culturally divisive issue to get people to show
their colors, right? I’m sure this guy thinks he was being simultaneously funny
and rebellious, but how hard does one have to look to see that this isn’t any
different than suggesting that, say, Jews or Arabs or black people ought to pay
more for their sandwiches than “regular” people (whoever they are)?
Meh, I suppose it’s a pretty small piece of the “marriage for
everyone” puzzle that’s been sordidly putting itself together over the past
year or so, but it still stinks…and it underscores once again the limits of
the French “live and let live” social ideal that I normally find so refreshing
compared to life on the other side of the Atlantic.
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