A group of Californian campaigners is using France as a model society when it comes to the evolution of the family. Their aim: to get gay marriage banned in a referendum today. And yet, it seems that they misinterpreted the findings of a French report.

The day America decides on a new president, California also votes on whether or not to ban same-sex marriage, which was made legal by the Supreme Court in the state last May. The amendment, named Proposition 8, would revert the legal definition of marriage to the civil union of two people of opposite sex. The question is being put to the state through a referendum. If it's successful, the step back would be a crushing blow to gay rights defenders, who hoped the state would act as a model for others.

Almost $70 million dollars has been spent by camps on the two sides. But on the "pro-family" side, the argument put forward by a campaign called Protect Marriage appears to be misguided. In a video arguing for the American family to remain "mummy and daddy" orientated, the narrator refers to a report made by French minister Valérie Pécresse in 2006. The report concluded that the right wing French government didn't want same-sex couples to parent children. However, it did not rule out gay marriage. In fact, gay and lesbian groups considered it a move in the right direction. But the Californian campaign fails to mention this, elevating France to a model society where gay marriage is out of the question.

UPDATE (6 Nov. 08 10am): Proposition 8 was passed after 52% of voters supported the ban on same-sex message. As a result, over a thousand gay-rights activists demonstrated in Los Angeles on Wednesday night.

Video by "Protect Marriage".

"Did you know that even France voted against same-sex marriage?"

Another video posted by "Protect Marriage". 

"They've raised thousands of dollars from churches all over the country"

Meredith Fenton works for COLAGE (Children of Lesbians & Gays Everywhere). She recently attended the wedding of her mother and her gay partner.

We've spent the past few months, since gay marriage was legalised, being able to celebrate equality with our families. The kids have been given important roles in the weddings, like giving their parents away or being the flower girl. It was great for these children to finally be able to feel like the state was treating them like everyone else. And people were able to see their neighbours or their teachers getting married, so they could see it was something normal.

I think that folks in California look at European states as being ahead. We can use them as an example - some of the countries have had same sex marriage for years and there's been no dramatic change to society: it proves that it works. So it's a shame that the 'against' campaign is using this example. They've raised thousands of dollars from churches all over the country, because they know that what happens here will set the tone for them in other states."

"Californians are not stupid"

Elix Skyler Wu is a gay Californian architecture student living in Paris.

[Using the report] is totally out of context - it's ludicrous, and it's deceitful for the campaigners to quote France out of context to help themselves. By saying "you don't know much about what's going on in France. Well we do"; it's just pointing fingers. Californians are not stupid; I think they have a better knowledge of how France works, but they might not know about the civil partnership set-up though - before I came here I hadn't heard of that.

This has been an issue for a long time in America - they can't separate state and religion - and contrary to what these videos try to get across, it's something which the French do really well. In France they understand the constitutional right to love and to marry. After living here I really think that people in America do not have the same respect for each other as they do in Europe.

I looked at the polls today and was surprised, and very worried, to see such a small margin. California is supposedly the most progressive state. It's also my home, and although I don't plan on getting married yet, I just don't want that right taken away from me. What if I fall in love? If everyone else can do it, why can't I? If this goes through, I'll feel ashamed. And it would be a great disappointment on the country as a whole. It's sacrificing everyone who doesn't stand on the same religious view."

"A large majority of the population supports same sex marriage"

Daniel Piriou is a LGBT activist based in Paris.

This report was ordered for after the uproar that followed the gay marriage in Belgium [by the mayor of Bègles, Noël Mamère, who married two men in 2004]. It was written in 2005 and presented to Parliament in January 2006. The report itself is correct. It recognises that the family structure is no longer necessarily nuclear and that there are varied forms of family now. It at no point said that homosexual couples could pose a problem in raising children.

So the report is objective. It's the conclusions that were come to that are conservative. For example, they decided that it wouldn't be possible to adopt outside of marriage. An aberration that even Jean-Pierre Raffarin, who's not really liberal, condemned.

That the American conservatives took this report makes me laugh. These are the same people who tried to humiliate France over the Iraq war. And now, they're using France as an example. They should be reminded that in France, a large majority of the population supports same sex marriage. It's about adoption that they're reluctant, although the latest survey on the matter shows that over half of French people have now accepted the idea."