France: Homophobic Violence Incidents As France Passes Marriage Equality

April 14, 2013 in General

According to Gay Star News, French opponents of marriage equality have threatened additional violence after France’s Marriage Equality Bill passed its Senate stage. The bill will now be reviewed in a Committee stage by the whole Senate, then sent back to the National Assembly for approval, and finally signed into law by President Francois Hollande in May 2013. This means that New Zealand will beat them into thirteenth place as the next society to introduce marriage equality after Uruguay.

There has been worrying escalation in the rhetoric of opponents, following an upsurge in incidents of homophobic violence fuelled by the increasingly extremist rhetoric of primarily religious social conservative and right-wing extremist opponents of marriage equality and inclusive adoption reform.

Frigide Barjot, leader of France’s primary anti-equality  group Manif pour tous (Demo for all), was quoted by France’s TF1 saying: ‘Hollande wants blood, and he will get it. This is a disgrace. The French people don’t want this law, and what do they do? They speed up its passage. We live in a dictatorship. The President of the Republic has guillotined us.’

Reprehensibly, even the UMP Opposition has ramped up its own incitement to violence if the legislation is passed. Herve Mariton, a rightist Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party deputy, called the Hollande administration’s pro-gay stance ‘an incitement to civil war.’ Fellow UMP deputy Christian Jacob  agreed and said: ‘The President of the Republic is risking a violent confrontation with the French people’ by passing the marriage equality legislation.

Meanwhile, Pinknews reports that National Assembly Speaker Claude Bartolone has received an envelope containing ammunition powder and a threatening letter calling on him to delay France’s marriage equality vote.

The increasingly violent rhetoric follows a brutal homophobic attack on Wilfred de Bruijn and his partner Olivier in Paris on April 6, as well as many other incidents of homophobic violence and attempted intimidation.

And of course, the US National Organisation for Marriage has been manipulating events from behind the scenes.

NOM  has a Board of Directors-approved mandate to make marriage “a national (and ultimately international) effort.” And so, NOM president Brian Brown went to France. For months Brown and his cohorts worked in front of and behind the cameras to help create an environment hostile to marriage equality in France:

“In the United States, we’ve demonstrated a key fact: with adequate resources, we can win the battle for hearts and minds on the marriage issue. We can use what we’ve learned about winning this battle to protect marriage internationally as well,” NOM’s secret court documents revealed just one year ago.
Except it isn’t working. The French Senate has voted for it, and it now only has to go back to the National Assembly and obtain President Hollande’s signature for it to become law. All that has resulted is a paroxysm of homophobic violence as increasingly fanatical opponents throw temper tantrums because they’re not getting their way.
Shamelessly, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris and France’s top Catholic bishop has warned against introducing marriage equality, saying that it could lead to a more violent society. Yeah, right- and guess where the violence is coming from?
As if to indicate this, Pink News reports that four people have been detained in connection with an attack on a gay bar in the French city of Lille.  According to the report, French Interior Minister Manuel Vallis has stated that the detainees are accused of intentionally targeting gay customers at the bar, a violent assault against the  manager and causing other damage to the premises. 
This tension is being blamed on a decision to fast-track debate on the Hollande administration’s own marriage equality bill, which began a second reading of the measure in the lower house (National Assembly) of the French Parliament on April 17,  with final approval scheduled for April 23. The French Senate approved the bill last week.
But why has the debate been so vitriolic in France? The New Zealand Herald offers several constructive suggestions. Is it the case that “France’s social fabric and identity crisis also helps explain the ferocity of the debate?” If so, that sounds like the situation that prevailed here during homosexual law reform, twenty-seven years ago.  Unlike New Zealand’s bipartisan social liberalism over the marriage equality issue:
It was the first chance for the right-wing electorate to express their opposition to Francois Hollande’s presidency and (Prime Minister) Jean-Marc Ayrault’s government,” political analyst Jean-Yves Camus said.  This makes it sound somewhat like the Muldoon era National Opposition’s stance against homosexual law reform, in the hopes of winning similar enduring support from the Christian Right.  However, things changed in New Zealand after that epochal debate. It may have helped define us as  a secular, western liberal pluralist  mainstream society where religious belief is essentially privatised and where each is free to go their own way, as long as they do not harm others.
There is a conservative Catholic, French monarchist (!) and far right segment of French society that has vocally opposed marriage equality, even though more than half of the general public endorse marriage equality, although many are less certain about adoption reform. It is that contingent which has mobilised against this legislative reform.  There is a mood of deep atavism within these opponents, “the legacy of a past that still excites passions more than two centuries after the dawn of the republic.”   Trouble is, that past was given dreadful incarnation in the aftermath of French military defeat in 1940 and the result was the Nazi puppet state, Vichy France, which actualised far right anxieties and propaganda against France’s well-integrated metropolitan Jewish population, tapping a rich vein of conservative Catholic anti-Semitism.
It seems that opponent rallies are losing steam and the anti-equality movement is now fragmenting, shipwrecked by its inability to control its extremist elements.  The final passage of France’s marriage equality bill is to occur on Tuesday, when it will become the fourteenth country to recognise marriage equality. After us!  That leaves the United Kingdom, which will probably not have problems in the House of Commons but will encounter difficulties with its obscurantist, unelected House of Lords. One recalls the Blair administration’s repeated attempts to repeal the Thatcher era Clause 28 of the Local Government Bill, or establish age of consent equality.
Unfortunately, outbreaks of homophobic violence continue, such as the latest such reported incident. According to Canada’s Xtra,
 another gay man has reportedly been attacked, according to media reports. French news portal, The Local has stated that Raphaël Leclerc alleges he was punched and kicked by three men when he and his partner left a Nice club around 5am on Saturday.  Leclerc was beaten unconscious:
We were not kissing and we were not holding hands; a couple of minutes later there were three, who were shouting ‘Hey gays’ at us, and then they ran at us,” Leclerc alleged, according to the report. Leclerc also told The Local he was asked by his alleged attackers if he was French or Chechen, and was jumped after replying French.
According to Gay Star News, a  Twitter hashtag loosely translated as ‘Homosexuals must be killed’is going viral before France’s National Assembly votes on gay marriage today (23 April).It is unknown exactly where ‘Il Faut Tuer Les Homosexuels’started from, but thousands of social networking users are tweeting about the trending topic. A poster named “Mamadou Neutron” may be responsible for the original tweet. He has since deleted the tweet but continues to publish homophobic messages. In retaliation, French LGBT lobby group SOS Homophobie is inviting everyone to screen capture the homophobic tweets and send the pictures to them, in an indication of the extremism of opponents. They wrote: ‘Waiting for your screen captures of homophobic tweets on Twitter  #ilfauttuerleshomosexuels.’  The Advocate noted that AmericaBlog  was reporting  a disturbing trend, consisting of other hate-filled hashtags on Twitter. Before the final vote,  #MortAuxGay (which translates to “death to gays”) and #ilfauttuerleshomosexuels (literally “we must kill all gays“) were  trending in the days before the vote.
Meanwhile, in Paris, there has been one final large demonstration against marriage equality, estimated at about 45,000 people, although organisers boasted “270,000″ participants. Led by out gay Parisian Mayor Bernard Delanoe, 3500 counter-picketers also protested in support of the legislation, which will probably receive final approval on Tuesday (Wednesday NZ Time), which will make France the third jurisdiction this year (and this month!) to recognise marriage equality, behind Uruguay (12) and New Zealand (13), but ahead of  the United Kingdom (15?).  Luxembourg and Finland are also debating marriage equality within their national legislatures, as most of the surrounding territories now recognise it.
However, the organisers of the rally were forced to acknowledge that their cause had been damaged by the extremist tactics of militant far right activists on earlier occassions, who had used the cause and marches to undertake violent and antisocial behaviour.  They insisted that such individuals and organisations were now excluded from participation within their “broad-based” anti-equality coalition.  That said, however, six individuals were arrested for carrying dangerous materials at the march.
Update: C’est Fini!!!

 The French Parliament  has approved its own marriage equality and adoption reform legislation overnight, a flagship reform pledge by President Francois Hollande, which has sparked often violent street protests from right-wing extremist opponents and a rise in homophobic violence

Hollande’s “marriage for all” legislation has been acclaimed by supporters of marriage equality as  the biggest social reform in France since his Socialist mentor and predecessor Francois Mitterrand abolished capital punishment  in 1981, a move which also aroused considerable contention.

Lawmakers in the National Assembly, where President  Hollande’s Socialists have an absolute majority, passed the bill  331-225, which makes  France the fourteenth country in the world to allow same-sex couples to wed, after Uruguay and New Zealand earlier this month. France is also the ninth country in Europe to allow same-sex marriage after legalisation in the traditionally liberal Netherlands and Scandinavia, but also within strongly Catholic Portugal and Spain. Legislation is also moving through the British Parliament, as well as within Scotland. Luxembourg and Finland are also debating the issue, and if Angela Merkel loses the Bundestag election in September 2013, her SPD/Green coalition rivals will probably also join the rest of Western Europe in moving toward marriage equality, having voted on the matter twice before.

They had to eject one last protestor from the chamber of the National Assembly. An embittered “Frigide Barjot” vowed to fight on and stated that her group would continue to protest although extremist elements would be “marginalised” (like they were when right-wing extremist marchers within their ensemble against marriage equality attacked the police during earlier mass protests, Ms Barjot?). She also called for a referendum on the subject.  Opponents also plan a challenge to the French Constititutional Court and will field candidates at the next French national elections in 2016.

However, closer scrutiny of  Barjot suggests that beneath the veneer, she is prone to association with right-wing extremists within French society. Her parents are friends of former French National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen.  She is a political conservative, previously affiliated with the Rally for the Republic Party before it metamorphosed into the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), currently the largest French centre-right party. She is also associated with the National Republican Movement, another far right organisation which has regularly made anti-Muslim political statements and opposes Turkish EU accession.  In her younger days, she was associated with the GUD, a neofascist university students association with connections to the French Young National Front.  Indeed, it is no accident whatsoever that the National Front and other right-wing extremists were so closely associated with the French movement against marriage equality, given her web of relationships and previous affiliations.

Justice Minister Christiane Taubira told the Assembly:

“Many French people will be proud this job is done. Those protesting today will find themselves moved by the joy of the newly-weds.”

Outside the debating chambers, anti-equality protests quickly turned violent, despite Bardotte’s aforementioned claims to the contrary,  as stones, bottles, and iron bars were used as weapons against riot police deployed to protect parliament. The police eventually used teargas against these violent protesters. Following the vote, riot police charged several times to attempt to clear the anti-equality protesters from Les Invalides. However, the protestors were forced to move down to the banks of the river Seine, where other violent clashes took place. In Paris itself, there were twelve arrests.  Reports also noted violent protests in Lyon, where more than fourteen people were arrested.  One conservative Catholic French radical anti-equality group, Printemps Francais, has stated that it will engage in “dissidence against Francois Hollande’s government” and asked supporters to wear a black ribbon to “mourn” the outcome. There do not seem to have any other significant protests against marriage equality other than the ones reported in Paris and Lyon.

Even after the passage of French marriage equality, protests by its opponents are still continuing. Organizers of “La Manif pour tous” (Demonstration for all) claimed 35,000 demonstrators in Paris, 20,000 in Lyons, 20,000 in Rennes, and thousands more participated in rearguard opposition rallies in Lille, Toulouse, Strasbourg, Dijon and many smaller towns.

Meanwhile, in Rome, L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s propaganda newspaper, condemned France’s move toward marriage equality:

The government of President Hollande, who has strongly supported the bill, did not pay attention to the many voices in recent months from many sectors of French society. And not only by Catholics.’ [No, by neofascists, royalists and other right-wing extremists...-C] It has also demanded that a referendum against marriage equality occur. Meanwhile, French LGBT activists are upbeat about an appeal to the French Constitutional Council from opponents of marriage equality, saying that they do not expect the result to be overturned.

President Hollande has urged  France to get on with everyday life now the steps have been taken.

In an amusing coda to the high drama and violent response to the advent of French marriage equality described above, it now seems that  four members of the National Assembly are saying they didn’t really mean to vote in favor of equality, according to Salon. Henri Guiano, a vocally antigay member of the centre-right  UMP party, said he was confused by the electronic voting system and accidentally voted for equality, when he actually opposes it. Three other members of Guiano’s UMP party told French publication Le Point  that they also inadvertently voted in favor of marriage equality,  while they actually oppose it. 

While monitoring the French marriage equality debate, I noticed two particular points of divergence from our more sedate debate. One was that there was substantial US Christian Right input into the tactics and strategies of the French opponents of marriage equality and adoption reform, particularly from the Witherspoon Institute and National Organisation for Marriage. The other was the extremism of many of those opponents. Frigide Bardotte was an amenable enough frontperson, but as time went on, her facade of overall organisational moderation and inclusion began to disintegrate due to the militancy of conservative Catholic extremists and outright neofascists, whether from the French National Front, or even further to the right. French political culture is highly centralised and stratified. It was also amusing to watch the Witherspoon Institute rapidly pull away and cease its coverage of the French marriage equality debate when that extremism surfaced. Unfortunately, and oddly, New Zealand provided insufficient detail about the scope and extent of the French marriage equality debate, despite its obvious relevance to our own marriage equality debate.

All, that is, except for the Institute’s Robert Lopez and his “Englishmanif” website, which acts as a translation conduit for English antigay articles into French, and vica versa. The website tries to spin its opposition to marriage equality and same-sex parenting (especially the latter) as “children’s rights”, although oddly, it focuses on surrogacy and gay male parenting, rather than either adoption or in vitro fertilisation access for lesbians, although perhaps not, given that unlike New Zealand, French same-sex parenting reforms do not yet include access to reproductive technology in their national context.  And how typical to see the French Christian Right try to co-opt “radical feminist” anti-surrogacy discourse in this context.  Interesting to see that the entanglement of the French National Front, far right French “royalist” groups and extremist French conservative Catholics hasn’t been translated into English as yet.

 Also amusingly, one of the correspondents for this website is named “Iphigenie.” Ah.  If that’s the same Iphigenia from Aeschylus’  Oresteia, then oops, bad serve, given that the tragic sacrifice of that young daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra triggered off the serial bloodletting and industrial strength family dysfunction that makes the trilogy in question such enthralling reading after all these millenia. Still, hardly a good argument for heteronormativity. Or children’s rights, given poor Iphigenia’s fate!

Postscript: Tragically, a French far right activist has killed himself shortly after the final passage of the legislation. Dominique Venner  committed suicide at the altar of the Notre Dame Cathedral in France,  shooting himself in the mouth, three days after athe introduction of marriage equality  came into effect.

Police evacuated the Cathedral on Tuesday (local time), one of Paris’ biggest tourist draws, after Venner – a historian known for his hard-right political essays and a fierce opponent of  marriage equality - shot himself, sending tourists fleeing in panic. Venner made no declaration as he shot himself around mid-afternoon, a police source said. He carried a letter on his person, but its contents were not released to the media. OnMay 2, his final entry on his blog page appealed to readers to join a march planned for Sunday against the Socialist government’s new marriage equality legislation.

Venner fought for France in the 1954-62 Algerian War of Independence. He later became a hard-right activist and author specialising in military and political history. Neofascist  National Front leader Marine Le Pen, who scored nearly a fifth of the first-round vote in the 2012 presidential election, paid tribute to him on Twitter, saying his suicide was a political gesture aimed at “waking up the French people”.

On the far right Canadian antiabortion and antigay Lifesite, there was an attempt to spin the antigay lobby’s way out of this tragic incident by arguing that Venner wasn’t a conservative Catholic (indeed, one would suspect not, given the circumstances of his suicide),  Venner was apparently instead an inveterate anti-Muslim sectarian and anti-immigrant racist who opposed Arab and African Muslim immigration to France and killed himself for that reason. Indeed, he accused the Catholic Church and liberal business leaders of assisting Muslim immigration. Dominique Venner was born in 1935 into  a Catholic family and baptized, as most French children were at that time. He lost his mother when he was 10, and this may have precipitated his break from the Church. He became a militant atheist who was to develop a fascination for the pagan history of Europe and was a “Nietzschean” neofascist and racist.

Final Postscript: In the New Zealand Herald, it was announced that French President Francois Hollande is now set to sign a gay marriage and adoption bill into law after it was cleared by the Constitutional Council after it turned down a challenge by the rightist UMP opposition. Hollande,  had made “marriage for all” a key election pledge, made an announcement saying it was “now time to respect the law and the Republic” after the Constitutional Council cleared the bill on Friday. As with New Zealand some technical steps, such as an enforcement decree of the law and modifications to the family register, need to be taken before the first gay wedding can be held, around June 8 to 10. So although we beat them to legislating for marriage equality, they’ll end up pipping us at the post by two months when it comes to holding actual same-sex marriages!

On Saturday, France will become the fourteenth country to officially legalise same-sex marriage, joining a club of eight other European nations – the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland and Denmark. Outside Europe, Canada, Argentina, South Africa, Uruguay, New Zealand and Brazil have also followed suit.  England and Wales will be debating the final reading of their marriage equality bill before the end of this month, and will be joined by Scotland in 2015.

The bill was approved on April 23 by the French Parliament,  but was immediately challenged on constitutional grounds by the main rightist opposition UMP party of former president Nicolas Sarkozy.

The UMP had protested passage of what it said was a fast-track voting procedure and argued that marriage equality represented such a fundamental change that more than a law is required. The UMP has not made clear whether it would seek to repeal the law if it comes to power, although some in the party believe that would not be legally possible. UMP party leader Jean-Francois Cope told TF1 television: “It is a decision that I regret, but that I respect.” The Constitutional Council said that the introduction of marriage equality  “did not run contrary to any constitutional principles,” and that it did not infringe on “basic rights or liberties or national sovereignty.” However, the council added that gay adoption did not automatically mean the “right to a child” and that the “interest of the child” would be the overriding factor in such cases. Of course- one would expect that just like straight couples, not all LGBT couples would be eligible to become adoptive parents.  Harlem Desir, organisational  leader of Hollande’s ruling Socialist party, said: “It’s a victory for the French republic and for equality. It’s a day of great pride for the Socialists.” Inter-LGBT Asssociation and SOS Homophobie also acclaimed the decision.  In Southern France, Helene Mandroux,  mayor of the southern French city of Montpellier  said she was looking forward to holding the first same-sex marriages in her Mediterranean city.  The final  clearance of the bill came on the International Day Against Homophobia and coincided with the release of a European Union report which said that two-thirds of Europe’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community are still afraid to show their sexuality in public.

 Inevitably, though, there was dissent from National Front darling Frigide Barjot, who whined: “It’s an institutional revolution. We are in the process of changing civilisation.”  Meanwhile,  antigay opponents of marriage equality haven’t stopped protesting against the new law. The latest occurred outside the Sorbonne University in Paris during a self-declared “Sorbonne Operation.”
Further antigay demonstrations are planned on May 26 and May 29, as the first legal gay weddings occur in Montpellier.  However, unexpectedly, Barjot opted out of them. She has said she has decided not to attend a rally against the recently passed French marriage equality legislation, on Sunday,for fear that protests will turn violent…again.
Next though, The Advocate dropped a bombshell when they disclosed that Barjot is now confessing that she is ‘frightened‘ of right-wing extremist elements that have infiltrated her cause.  Barjot has been subjected to threatening letters, emails and phone calls since France introduced marriage equality earlier this month- but they’re not coming from supporters, but opponents instead: “I’m being bombarded. Before the law on homosexual marriage was passed, the threats came from the gay militants on the far left. Now they are coming from the homophobes on the far right.”  In their threatening messages, the extremists accuse Barjot of being a government “stooge” and a “fifth-columnist” for gays. Well, she is divorced and used to have a raunchy stage act, apparently. However, her amenable persona made her a useful frontwoman for opponents of marriage equality. However, her usefulness to the extremists now seems to be over.
Barjot cancelled her attendance at the next “Manif Pour Tous” demonstration after the threats, which are believed to emanate from “Le Printemps Francais”,    a right-wing racist and homophobic Catholic neofascist organisation.  Barjot has requested police protection after the threats. Le Printemps are believed to be associated with Dominique Venner,  the right-wing extremist author who committed suicide in Notre Dame Cathedral last week. Indeed, as the UK Independent reports, the French antigay movement seems to be coming apart at the seams, a victim of its own extremism.
Barjot states that she did not know Venner before his tragic death and has denounced his behaviour:
This man who killed himself at Notre Dame, I had never heard of him. He obviously wanted to become a martyr, to inspire other people to do violent things. How can a man who claims to represent traditional values, and Christian values, commit suicide in a cathedral? I am worried about what may happen at the demonstration on SundayI want guarantees, for my own safety first of all. I entered this movement to rescue the family, not to lose my own skin and have my own family torn apart.”
She also now states that she wanted an ‘improved’ version of civil unions, except without access to the right to adopt children, comparable to New Zealand’s Civil Union Act 2005 before it was superceded by the recent Marriage Amendment Act 2013.  She distances herself from radicals opposed to any recognition of  LGBT relationship equality whatsoever. Unsurprisingly, her own basis for antigay discrimination is conservative Catholic natural law theory.  
But just who or what are “Le Printemps Francais?” On his Twitter account, Yosef Brody provides a highly useful summary of these right-wing extremists opposed to marriage equality, same-sex parening and secular civil republican mainstream French values:
[...] Who are Printemps français? They are the radical fringe of the ‘Manif pour Tous’ or ‘Demonstration for All’ series of protests organised by a comedian calling herself Frigide Barjot against the impending new law giving full marriage and adoption rights to same-sex couples. This ‘movement within a movement’ made its presence known at the Paris protest march on 24th March when it attempted to force its way on to the Champs-Élysées, in defiance of a ban issued by the police prefecture of Paris. It is led by about ten people and suddenly emerged after the 13th January march against marriage equality,  appearing on extreme right-wing blogs, particularly among the Catholic traditionalist fringe, then on its own website,
Brody particularly draws our attention to one particular Printemps Francais activist:
[...] Philippe Darantière, the figure in the background who runs Printemps français. “In 2013 the Manif pour Tous is ready to undermine the government of François Hollande,” he has predicted. A 52-year-old former paratrooper officer who later moved into the field of economic intelligence, it was Philippe Darantière who instigated the attempts to breach police barriers at the 24th March protest. The clashes with the forces of law and order that took place then do not seem to have been spontaneous.
Indeed, Darantiere appears to have published an article online to this effect:
[...] on the site Nouvelles de France, five days before those demonstrations. “It would be amusing to see the Paris police prefect take the risk of abandoning the capital to the chaos of hundreds of thousands of protesters massing in the streets, overwhelming the ability to maintain order and pushing from all directions against the police barriers that are trying to stop access to the Champs-Élysées…” (March 20).  Philippe Darantière also called for the movement’s “counter-attack” to be based on using influence, gaining recognition and through using “coercion”. Expanding on this last point he noted: “It will be claimed that such a reaction by the Manif pour Tous will be illegal. That is the wrong analysis. The very logic of a power struggle is to dominate the other side by imposing one’s superiority. At this stage it’s all about bluff and holding one’s nerve.”
 Furthermore, Printemps Francais keeps some sinister company:
The same circles who support Printemps français [include] activists from Renouveau Français (‘French Renewal’) – a small nationalist, Catholic and counter-revolutionary group who fight against the “homosexual lobby” – former members of the old far-right student group Groupe Union Défense (GUD) and members of the Lyon-based group GUD-Lyon then joined the action.
He notes that:
 Printemps Français is led by Béatrice Bourges, who was ousted as a spokesperson for Manif pour Tous. She is president of the pro-family Collectif pour la famille which represents “79 French associations defending marriage and the family” and which has been involved in the opposition to same-sex marriages since 2007.
However, it is Darantiere that actually runs the organisation. He is stated to be a conservative Catholic, involved with the French anti-abortion and antigay movements. According to Brody, again:
Printemps français today contains two alternative  strands of thought. On one side are the neofascist, right-wing revolutionary nationalist hard-liners who want to topple the government and who believe that the far-right Front National (FN) let them down by abandoning the fight against marriage equality. On the other is a group that wants to go down the same route as Christine Boutin for the local elections in 2014 and try to obtain as many councillors as possible with France’s  Christian Democrat Party, a French microparty (PCD). While the FN is not part of this strand, the former FM member and current extreme right MP Jacques Bompard is involved in it.
According to Brody and Darantiere:
Referring to the “70 demonstrations” organised by the collective organisation across France between 17th November 2012 and 8th March 2013, the “half a million protesters” who went to Paris on 13th January and the “200 gatherings” across France on 2nd February, the former paratrooper explains in his article that the “provinces” were the “reservoir for the demonstrators of 24th March”.
But wait, it gets worse. Also involved in the Manif Pour Tous movement were:
 [There is also] a radical right group ‘Jeunesses nationalistes’ run by Alexandre Gabriac, who was expelled from the FN in 2011 for giving a Nazi salute:The boundary between the right and the extreme right is becoming less clear. For several weeks there have been people in front of me with Manif pour Tous on their tee-shirts but who have more radical views.”
Barjot was getting quite irritated at the entryist tactics of these parvenus:
Violence has no place [in our movement]. We condemn Printemps français’s acts. They harm our movement,” she said. “They have copied and parodied us, they prejudice our philosophy of the ‘Demonstration for All’.”  She has
already sacked Bourges as her deputy within Manif Pour Tous. France’s centre-right UMP Opposition is also deeply split over the issue, as Party Leader Jean Francois Coppe wanted UMP supporters to turn out as a sign of opposition to Hollande administration policies. However, while MPs Christian Jacob, Henri Guaino and Herve Mariton backed their leader, former centre-right PM Alain Juppe and former Finance Minister Francois Barin counselled boycotting the march, concerned at the risk of violence from extremist elements. Another former Prime Minister, Francois Fillon, agreed with them, as Nathalie Kosciusko-Moreizet, widely tipped as a UMP Paris mayoral candidate and a former UMP Ecology Minister.  Predictably, though, the National Front did participate in the march, which passed mostly without incident and attracted only half the number of its alleged former participants, at 150, 000.
However, some neofascist elements did show up to participate at the march. As Stuff notes, protests against marriage equality have morphed into a “wider movement with opposition politicians and far-right militants airing their discontent with Hollande. “
Moreover,  ”the protesters hope their renewed show of force will help stop or slow down further laws some Socialists want allowing assisted procreation and surrogate motherhood for gay couples. “  So as not to alienate conservative Catholics, the far right restricted their antics to the end of the day after most of the conservative Catholics had gone home, although “police said they arrested 96 hardline opponents to the gay marriage law later on for refusing to disperse or occupying private property. “
 However, due to the far right’s misbehaviour, “72 per cent thought the protests should stop now” in a recent opinion poll.
According to the UK Independent, about two hundred young right-wing extremists attacked police with bottles, stones, fireworks and flares. Middle-class religious social conservative ‘family values’ protestors and Catholic priests did nothing to restrain the violent protestors. In one case, Generation Identitaire, another neofascist group, climbed atop the Socialist Party headquarters and were arrested for trespass after unfurling an anti-Hollande banner. Most of the ninety six arrests occurred because the offenders were carrying concealed weapons. The protest seemed to be more critical of adoption reform and IVF access than marriage equality.
The Socialist Party denounced the rallies, and as noted above, the UMP is internally divided about whether or not to continue them and risk a possible public backlash within their already deeply divided ranks. Significantly, fewer Catholic priests and hierarchy appeared to participate in successive marches too.
Bruno Vercken from the Manif Pour Tous (Demo for all), movement, has accused the French President of pandering to a small group of funders of his presidential campaign. One is tempted to retort, yes, and who’s funding these French antigay campaigns, especially given its links to the US Christian Right-led World Congress of Families, National Organisation for Marriage  and Witherspoon Institute?
At Lifesite, Jeanne Smits obviously hoped that no-one on the progay side of international French marriage equality coverage had noticed the growing schisms within the marriage equality opposition over its inclusion of neofascist elements.  She denied that Barjot had become reluctant to be involved with Manif Pour Tous over her support for civil unions and tactical turn toward opposition to same-sex parenting. Meanwhile, Catholic trade unionist CFCT Patric Trouvenall raved about abortion, euthanasia, cuts to spousal and child benefits and other marginal subjects.  She only seemed to care about the wildly exaggerated number of protestors, overestimated at one million, while French police only counted one tenth of that number.
 Meanwhile, French Socialist Interior Minister Manuel Valls has said that he is fed up with the extremism of Le Printemps Francais and advocates prohibiting the organisation altogether. The organisation was now openly threatening the French government, rule of law and supporters of French marriage equality, he said, which was ‘intolerable.” 
This is a call to violence,” Valls told France Info, adding that there had even been a number of death threats, which he does not “take lightly”. Justice will have to act because it is intolerable that in the Republic there can be these messages of hate. There is no place for groups that challenge the Republic, democracy and which also attack individuals.”
Meanwhile, at English Manif , Robert Lopez appears to be ignoring the existence of  Le Printemps Francais and the travails of Ms. Barjot, and is trying to spread mendacious propaganda against same-sex parenting across the Anglo-French translation interface.
At the same time, how typical to see French antigay organisation “Manif Pour Tous” represented at the World Congress of Families in Sydney. They state that they will try to elect anti-equality candidates at French council and mayoral elections, as well as National Assembly and Senate elections and have stated that they will try to have the legislation repealed. Typically, they’re downplaying their close and intimate neofascist French National Front associations.
On a happier note, France’s first gay wedding proper took  place in Montpellier on Wednesday May 29, between Vincent Autin and Bruno Boileau, married by Socialist mayor Helene Mandroux in a civil ceremony, with Socialist ministers Najat Vallaud-Belkacem and Dominique Bertinotti in attendance. There were even congratulations from one Virginie Tellene (aka anti-marriage campaigner Frigide Barjot), although she has vowed not to rest until the adoption reform sections of the new legislation are repealed. Only a few diehard anti-equality protestors tried to disrupt the festivities.Helene Mandroux  said it was a “historic moment for our country”.She told Autin and Boileau: “Your union is a symbol for all France … in which the right to marriage is at last the same for all.”She asked the French to reflect on why the controversial “marriage for all” law – passed only 11 days earlier – had provoked such a “torrent of hatred, violence and division when it is simply to allow a few of our fellow citizens to live their love in broad daylight”. Predictably, several days later, some hardline homophobe sent her faeces in the mail.
Meanwhile, bisexual Christian Right opponent of marriage equality Robert Lopez is in dreamland when he states that the French opposition to marriage equality taught “two valuable lessons”-  one of which is ‘mobilisational scale,’ apparently (especially if you spice up your numbers with violent neofascist extremists, it seems, but of course, Lopez wants to ignore that side of things. I’m not sure why, given how much that’s been in the news…).   Lopez gibbers that marriage equality and same-sex parenting aren’t inevitable or enlightened. Au contraire. Look at the fact that conservative Catholics, French monarchists (!) and neofascists were the ringleaders of such organisations, and one doesn’t exactly see ‘enlightenment’ of any sort. In fact, they seem to think that anything since the late eighteenth century is a mistake.
In Arcangues, a tiny French town on the Franco-Spanish border, a fight is brewing on the subject of civil marriage.  Jean-Michel Colo, mayor of Arcangues, has refused to marry a gay couple, and as well as facing a backlash from the French LGBT community, he could face charges of discrimination. Colo could be sentenced for discrimination, which carries penalties of up to five years in prison and up to a €75,000 (£63,000) fine, for refusing to  marry Guy Martineau-Espel, and partner Jean-Michel Martin.The couple said they were surprised when their application was rejected, reports Agence France-Presse. The couple had attempted to avoid drawing attention to the situation, and had tried to compromise, offering to marry outside of the traditional marriage hall, but Colo still refused. M. Colo, vous etes un drama queen!
Meanwhile, in a further piece of shameless grandstanding and denial of the presence of violent neofascist agitators present during their marches, a report will be presented today at a hearing at the Council of Europe alleging systematic use of excessive and violent police actions by France’s socialist government to “suppress” opposition to French marriage equality legislation. French “Manif pour Tous and its police repression” will be presented in conjunction with today’s session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and will be presented to the United Nations in Geneva. The report contains allegations  of police violence, including arbitrary arrest and pepper spraying, which were said to be  rife during the demonstrations against French marriage equality legislation.
Unsurprisingly, the hearing was organized by the right-wing  European People’s Party bloc and the Strasbourg-based European Centre for Law and Justice, in the presence of Luca Volontè, President of the EPP Group. The report contains numerous allegations of “victims of police brutality”  in the course of several mass demonstrations against marriage equality. And on a lighter note, Bruce Logan wrote a silly little piece for the New Zealand Herald commenting on the French absence of either  Easter and Sunday trading and marriage equality.
Update: France has now banned three right-wing extremist organisations associated with the aforementioned violent protests against marriage equality, including several reportedly involved in the killing of Clement Meric.  Hollande administration spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said the Third Way, the Revolutionary Nationalist Youth (JNR) and the Desire to Dream association had been officially dissolved.Five people linked with the banned groups are facing charges over the death. Ms Vallaud-Belkacem said the three organisations had the characteristics of “private militias” who “provoked discrimination, hate and violence“. French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault had previously asked the interior minister to take steps “immediately” to ban the JNR, the militant wing of the Third Way.
Twitter, the social networking website, has agreed to hand over the personal details of the proscribed trio of neofascist and allied hate groups, following repeated antigay and anti-Semitic tweets.  The Hollande administration and the Union of Jewish Students of France have opposed the abuse of the website for such purposes.
Vive la France!!!


Jean Paul Zapata: “French marriage equality bill meets with threats of violence” Gay Star News: 13.04.2013:

 Natasha Barsotti “France: Tensions rise as marriage debate fast-tracked” Xtra: 18.04.2013:

 ”France polarised by gay marriage” New Zealand Herald: 22.04.2013:

 ”French gay marriage: Opponents hold last-ditch rally” BBC News: 21.04.2013:

 Nicholas Vinocur: “France approves same-sex marriages” 24.04.2013:

 ”France: Riot police in violent clashes with protestors against newly signed equal marriage bill” Pinknews: 24.04.2013:

 ”Vatican newspaper: Francois Hollande did not pay attention to French opponents of equal marriage:” Pinknews: 24.04.2013:

 Sunnivie Brydum: “France: Confused Antigay Politicians accidentally vote for marriage equality” Advocate: 25.04.2013:

 Wikipedia/Frigide Barjot:

 English Manif:

 ”France set to sign gay marriage and adoption bill” New Zealand Herald: 18.05.2013:

 ”Notre Dame suicide shock” 22.05.2013:

 ”French marriage activists vow to fight on” Mercatornet: 22.05.2013:

 ”French anti-equality marriage leader pulls out for fear of violence” Pinknews: 24.05.2013:

 ”French marriage equality opponent “very scared” of right-wing backlash” Advocate: 25.05.2013:

 Jeanne Smits: “French pro-marriage figure committed suicide to protest immigration, not gays” Lifesite: 24.05.2013:

 John Lichfield “Frigide Barjot: The French anti-gay marriage leader under attack” Independent: 24.05.2013:

 ”France mulls banning anti-gay marriage group” France 24:24.05.2013:

 Yosef Brody: “Behind the radical right wing French Spring movement”: Brody Post (Twitter):

 Tony Cross: “France’s marriage opponents fall out on eve of planned protest” France 24: 25.05.2013:

 ”Violence erupts at gay marriage march in Paris” 28.05.2013:

 ”Huge gay marriage protest turns violent” Independent: 27.05.2013:

 Jeanne Smits: “Pro-marriage revolution building in France: Up to one million march” Lifesite: 29.05.2013:

 Robert Lopez: “How France destroyed two myths about same-sex marriage” Lifesite: 11.06.2013:

 Joseph McCormick: “French mayor: I will go to the gallows before performing a same-sex wedding” Pinknews: 12.06.2013:

 ”Police used systematic force against French traditional marriage protestors-report” Lifesite: 27.06.2013:

 Bruce Logan: “Family glue holds France together: New Zealand Herald: 28.06.2013:

 ”Clement Meric Killing: France bans far right groups” BBC News: 10.07.2013:

 ”France: Twitter gives information on anti-gay group to police” Pinknews: 12.07.2013:




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