Strongly backed by the Catholic hierarchy, lay activists have mobilized a hybrid coalition of church-going families, political conservatives, Muslims, evangelicals and even homosexuals opposed to gay marriage for the show of force.

“We want this draft law to be withdrawn,” Patricia Soullier, a protest organizer, told BFM-TV before boarding a Paris-bound train in Montpellier in the south of France.

Several hundred thousand were expected to march in near freezing temperatures against the reform, which Hollande promised in his election campaign and has enough votes in parliament to pass easily…

Organizers insist they are not against gays and lesbians, but for traditional marriage. “We are marriagophile, not homophobe,” said Barjot, author of a book entitled “Confessions of a Trendy Catholic”.