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French protest against passage of gay marriage bill turns violent

Fiery clashes break out between protesters and riot police
Tuesday, April 23, 2013

PARIS — France legalized same-sex marriage on Tuesday after a wrenching national debate that exposed deep conservatism in the nation’s heartland and triggered huge demonstrations that tapped into intense discontent with the Socialist government.

Within hours, fiery clashes broke out between protesters and riot police.

Legions of officers stayed late into the night, and a protest against the measure turned violent near the Invalides complex of museums and monuments. Protesters threw glass bottles, cans and metal bars at police, who responded with tear gas.

Anti-gay marriage activists hold smoke flares with the color of the logo of the movement during a rally to protest the new law after French lawmakers legalized same-sex marriage on Tuesday, April 23, 2013, in Paris.
Photo: Michel Euler, AP

It was an issue that galvanized the country’s faltering right, which had been decimated by infighting and their election loss to President Francois Hollande. France is the 14th country to legalize gay marriage nationwide -and the most populous.

The measure passed easily in the Socialist-majority Assembly, 331-225, just after the president of the legislative body expelled a disruptive protes ter in pink, the color adopted by French opponents of gay marriage.

Justice Minister Christiane Taubira told lawmakers that the first weddings could be as soon as June.

“We believe that the first weddings will be beautiful and that they’ll bring a breeze of joy, and that those who are opposed to them today will surely be confounded when they are overcome with the happiness of the newlyweds and the families,” she said.

Earlier in the day, there appeared to be more police than protesters outside the Parliament building on Paris’ Left Bank, but that calculation soon shifted as night fell and thousands gathered to protest the bill. The protest dwindled to a few stalwarts shortly before midnight, when the violence began among a few hundred demonstrators including some who carried signs saying “Socialist dictatorship.”

Claire Baron, 41, a mother of two, said that she “will oppose the bill until the end.”

“I’ll keep going to the protests, I don’t give in. The bill is not effective yet, the president of the Republic must listen to our voices. We are here to defend family values. Children need a mom and a dad,” Baron said.

In recent weeks, violent attacks against gay couples have spiked and some legislators have received threats — including Claude Bartelone, the Assembly president, who got a gunpowder-filled envelope on Monday.

One of the biggest protests against same-sex marriage drew together hundreds of thousands of people bused in from the French provinces — conservative activists, schoolchildren with their parents, retirees, priests and others.

That demonstration ended in blasts of tear gas, as right-wing rabble-rousers, some in masks and hoods, led the charge against police, damaging cars along the Champs-Elysees avenue and making a break for the presidential palace.

Pro gay marriage activists celebrate after French lawmakers legalized same-sex marriage.
Photo: Christophe Ena, AP

 Photo: Francois Mori, AP

Following the vote members of the gay and lesbian community flocked to a square in central Paris, just behind City Hall, to celebrate t he vote.

“I feel immense joy, gigantic joy,” said 39-year old Sylvain Rouzel. “At last, everyone has the same rights. This is huge! France was lagging behind. We had to wait 14 years after the civil union to finally obtain the right to get married, with equal rights for everyone. I feel great!”

Paris’ openly gay mayor, Bertrand Delanoe, was among the crowd of hundreds gathered for the street celebration in the Marais, the city’s historic gay neighborhood.

When Hollande promised to legalize gay marriage, it was seen as relatively uncontroversial. The issue has become a touchstone as his popularity has sunk to unprecedented lows, largely over France’s ailing economy.

“The opposition is in a weakened position, but they know which buttons to press in order to get a reaction in society, in a country as liberal as France, where nobody thought it was an issue,” said Hossein Alizadeh, a coordinator with the U.S.-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Right s Commission who has followed the issue.

But the most visible face in the fight against gay marriage – a former comedienne who goes by the name of Frigide Barjot – said the movement named “A Protest for Everyone” will continue beyond the law’s passage and possibly field candidates in 2014 municipal elections. She said anyone involved in protest violence would be marginalized, but blamed the government for its failure to listen.

“The violence comes from the way in which this was imposed,” Barjot told France Info radio.

French conservatives, demoralized and divided by the election loss of standard-bearer Nicolas Sarkozy, found common cause in opposing same-sex marriage. Hoping to keep the issue alive, the conservative UMP party planned to challenge the law in the Constitutional Council.

“The controversy that we’ve seen has been a stoked and manipulated controversy that’s really kind of a last-ditch attempt to block the tide of history,” said Evan Wolfson, president of the American activist group Freedom to Marry, which he said worked with the French on the bill. “I don’t think it spoke to a deep or wide opposition among the French people.”

French civil unions, allowed since 1999, are at least as popular among heterosexuals as among gay and lesbian couples. But that law has no provisions for adoption, and the strongest opposition in France as far as same-sex couples goes comes when children are involved. According to recent polls, just over half of French are opposed to adoption by same-sex couples – about the same number who said they favored same-sex marriage.

Christophe Crepin, spokesman for the police union UNSA, says the extraordinary security Tuesday included a total of about 4,000 officers in the area near the National Assembly building and water cannon positioned nearby.

On the cover of Tuesday’s Liberation newspaper, the famed gay photographers Pierre and Gilles took over the front page and several of the inside pages, splashing them with some of their most provocative photos, including one of three soccer players — nude but for the footwear — facing the camera.

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35 more reader comments:

  1. :(

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 3:53pm
  2. :(

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 3:54pm
  3. They’ll get over it eventually.

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 3:55pm
  4. fabs

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 3:55pm
  5. Finally!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 3:55pm
  6. Good gravy! It’s just marriage people…it isn’t like we’ve got some agenda or something.

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 3:56pm
  7. Great news. Shame about the violent homophobes.

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 3:56pm
  8. ::rolls eyes:: oh COME ON…don’t be dumbasses like we are

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 3:57pm
  9. It’s so bizarre bc the French are so sexually UNrepressed, and also some of the GAYEST men I’ve ever seen are French! Is this a Catholic influence thing?

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 3:57pm
  10. let them protest the LGBTQ community will not be silenced we will fight with everything we have and more

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 3:58pm
  11. I dont enjoy the fact that at there are riots and violence, but this just shows me how a government will fight for what they know is just and crrect. Probably some other countries can learn a thing or two ;)

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 4:00pm
  12. arrest those that do violence.

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 4:01pm
  13. Desperately Sad and sorrowful marauding neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan wanna be’s … showing again the Ugly side of poor Losers… we say ‘ See Ya ! Don’t wanna be ya !’ ;o)

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 4:01pm
  14. Shirtless fit boys, the color pink. It’s just one big celebration of being in the closet.

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 4:04pm
  15. they want a war and were giving it to them it’s time we have our rights and this is our year

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 4:05pm
  16. So the colour of the anti-gay-marriage crowd is Pink? Well that screams heterosexuality anyway.

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 4:05pm
  17. They should protest wars not someone’s love for someone

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 4:05pm
  18. Fuck them

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 4:07pm
  19. They are always protesting!

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 4:07pm
  20. I dont know how much play the opposition and their money had, but France showed us all today that France and its citizens rights/lives cannot be bough.

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 4:08pm
  21. Christians at their finest

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 4:09pm
  22. The haters will get over this because they will have to now.

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 4:10pm
  23. suck it bitches.

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 4:12pm
  24. Bigotry knows no boundaries

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 4:19pm
  25. Seriously homophobic! never expected that from France/

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 4:25pm
  26. Isnt normal. I dont think that they are really anti gay marriage, they are more anti-government. Its only principle.

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 4:25pm
  27. They need to get a life and let others be happy. Why it should matter to them is beyond me

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 4:29pm
  28. Such an educate example.

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 4:30pm
  29. whenever belief is instilled, sooner or later, violence is ALWAYS the result. Dr Regina Schwartz in The Curse of Cain and the Violent Legacy of Monothesism.

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 4:31pm
  30. Sour losers LMAO!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 4:36pm
  31. But they’re French!….. @.@

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 4:56pm
  32. France approved it so if some peeps don’t like it, well tough stuff, it is what it is. We the LGBT community will continue to wear the beautiful colors of red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple and we’re proud of it. We are proud of who we are baby and if some peeps are gonna pout and whine about it, then do it in the privacy of your own home. It’s all about EQUAL RIGHTS and they may not like it but they sure have to respect it. Much love to France, it’s your time to shine. <3

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 5:42pm
  33. Get with the times. It’s 2013, and the world is changing.

    Posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 8:07pm
  34. i’m kind of surprised!

    Posted on Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at 1:51am
  35. Dear conservatives, grow up. Fix your economy leave people’s private lives out of it.

    Posted on Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at 7:32am