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Topics In the News
As France Considers Same-Sex Marriage, Battered Victim Becomes Face of Marriage Equality
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 04/11/13
Last updated on: 04/11/13
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As France is on the verge of passing historic legislation authorizing same-sex marriage, the battered face of a gay bashing victim has become an emblem of homophobic opposition to equal rights. The image of Wilfred de Bruijn's cut and bruised face has emerged as compelling evidence of the claim that homophobic acts have increased as a direct result of opposition to the proposals for marriage equality.

As Thomas Adamson reports for the Associated Press, "The shocking photo of a homophobic attack victim in Paris that went viral on social media this week and caused the French interior minister to weigh in was used as an emblem in a pro-gay rally Wednesday evening."

The image of Wilfred de Bruijn's battered face was brandished by several thousand demonstrators in an April 10, 2013 rally as evidence of their claim that homophobic acts have tripled nationwide over opposition to a law legalizing gay marriage.

De Bruijn was beaten unconscious near his home early Sunday in central Paris, sustaining five fractures in his head and face, abrasions, and a lost tooth. His partner, who was also beaten up, said three to four men shouted, "Hey, look they're gays," before they attacked.

The incident has shocked France and bolstered support for equal rights. On Tuesday night, Interior Minister Manuel Valls called De Bruijn personally to express his shock and sympathy.

The Senate continues its debate on marriage equality legislation, having handily passed the two most important parts of the bill, the section permitting same-sex marriage and the one permitting joint adoption by same-sex couples. The debate is expected to end on Friday or Monday, with President Hollande's Socialist Party and allies passing the proposal into law.

But, as Adamson writes, "whichever way the Senate votes, the image of De Bruijn's battered face has made for a symbolic end to five months of bitterly divisive protests."

De Bruijn has blamed the attack and the increase in homophobia on the opponents of gay marriage.

He told Adamson, "What (the anti-gay marriage campaign) are saying is that they're not homophobic: lesbians and gays are nice people, but don't let them get close to children--that's very dangerous. It's OK for them to live together, but not like other couples with the same protection because it's not really the same thing."

He added, "These people are all professionals of the spoken word. They know very well what can happen if you repeat, repeat, repeat that these people are lower human beings. Of course it will have a result."

In response to the attack on De Bruijn and his partner, 30 gay groups organized the anti-homophobia rally on Wednesday. Associations SOS Homophobia and Refuge have used the incident to highlight the spike they have recorded in homophobic attacks since the gay marriage bill was announced last year. Both organizations report that homophobic verbal and physical acts have tripled in the first three months of 2013 compared with the same period in 2012.

Meanwhile, Frigide Barjot, the stage name of an activist who has led protests against marriage equality, insisted that the anti-gay marriage movement is opposed to violence. Speaking on RMC radio Wednesday, Barjot was careful to distance herself from a rightwing movement called the "French Spring," whose name was supposedly inspired by the revolutionary values of 2011's "Arab Spring."

"We don't want violence. We denounce this violence and these acts, we have nothing to do with (Catholic) fundamentalists or extremists," she said.

In response, De Bruijn acknowledged that "It was not Frigide Barjot who was hitting my head, or the bishop of Avignon lurking in that street to attack us."

"But," he pointedly added, "they are responsible."

American hate groups and anti-marriage equality activists frequently say that they are opposed to violence and often pretend that they are concerned only with "protecting" traditional marriage rather than depriving same-sex couples of rights. Such statements are invariably made only to the media. The statements they make to their own followers, and that they permit on the comments board of their blogs and websites, tell a different story.

There is a direct link between their opposition to equal rights and the violence visited upon glbtq people.

Our enemies have blood on their hands.

As Dan Savage memorably said of the egregious head of the Family Research Council hate group, "Tony Perkins sits on a pile of dead gay kids every day when he goes to work--and he calls himself a Christian. I don't understand how real Christians let that little fucker get away with that."

In the video below, Wilfred De Bruijn discusses the homophobic attack on him and his partner.

The news video below reports on the April 10, 2013 demonstration.

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