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Topics In the News
Violence and Threats of Violence in Advance of French Marriage Equality Vote
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 04/22/13
Last updated on: 04/22/13
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Anti-gay marchers.

As France's National Assembly is on the verge of enacting marriage equality legislation, the country has been rocked by homophobic attacks and threats of violence. In the wake of an escalation of the rhetoric of intolerance by the increasingly desperate right-wing opponents of equality, a marked rise in homophobic incidents has been reported across the nation.

On April 23, 2013, the National Assembly is scheduled to cast its final and decisive vote on a bill to allow equal marriage and adoption. If, as expected, the bill is passed, it will be reviewed by the Constitutional Council before being signed into law by President François Hollande and published in the Official Journal of the French Republic.

The violent opposition to equal rights in France seeped into the National Assembly itself on April 19, when delegates came to blows in a scuffle that lasted several minutes.

In addition, Socialist deputies Sylviane Bulteau and Hugues Fourage were sent letters from anti-gay marriage extremists threatening to kidnap and kill them or their loved ones if the marriage bill is not withdrawn. Senator Esther Benbassa said her car was trashed and that she had received threatening phone calls, emails, and letters because of her support of marriage equality.

On April 22, Claude Bartolone, the Socialist president of the National Assembly, received a threatening letter containing gunpowder.

The one-page letter, signed by "an intermediary of law enforcement," warned Bartolone that "our methods are more radical and more swift than protests." It also said, "Allowing marriage for all would be the same as destroying all marriage." It ended with a chilling threat, "If you were to carry on regardless, your political family will have to suffer physically."

The letter sent to Bartelone echoes the threat made earlier by Frigide Barjot, the leader of the anti-gay group Manif pour Tous, who said that President Hollande "wants blood" and promised that "He will get it."

On April 10, Wilfred De Bruijn was beaten unconscious near his home in central Paris, sustaining five fractures in his head and face, abrasions, and a lost tooth. His battered face quickly became an emblem of homophobic opposition to equal rights.

In response to the attack on De Bruijn, 30 gay groups organized an anti-homophobia rally and 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.

But, as Ben McPartland reports in The Local, the English-language French site, homophobic attacks continue. For example, on April 20, a gay couple were attacked as they left a night club in the Mediterranean city of Nice.

One of the victims posted the picture of his battered face on Facebook to try to raise awareness of France's increasing homophobia.

Similar incidents have been reported in Lille and in Bordeaux, where gay bars have been attacked.

From April 17 through April 19, protests and counter-protests were held in Paris. Police have arrested more than 100 demonstrators. At one anti-gay protest, French riot police were forced to use tear gas and batons on some members of the crowd, including a Catholic priest reportedly affiliated with the anti-semitic Society of St Pius X.

In response to the escalating rhetoric and acts of violence, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault called for calm in the face of violent protests; Interior Minister Manuel Valls warned that the movement opposed to equal marriage had been infiltrated by far-right organizations; and President Hollande condemned homophobic violence.

On April 21, thousands gathered peacefully at the Place de la Bastille in Paris to show their support for marriage equality. The gathering took place at the same time as opponents of the legislation marched towards the National Assembly.

The video below depicts the anti-gay march. Joe Jervis at Joe.My.God notes that the music accompanying the video is "Bound to Ravage" by Sweden's Diamond Dogs. He adds, "One presumes that is supposed to be a warning to us. Or something."

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