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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 26, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 17
PARIS - Right-wing riots as marriage law is finalized
Section One
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PARIS - Right-wing riots as marriage law is finalized

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

French riot police battled thousands of anti-Gay demonstrators in the streets of Paris on the night of April 23, after the French parliament finalized the country's new marriage equality law.

Protesters threw glass bottles, garbage cans, and metal bars at police, who responded with tear gas and batons. The Associated Press reported an unconfirmed story that rioters had thrown Molotov cocktails at the police lines. Twelve rioters were arrested. One of the arrestees was said to be a Catholic priest in the ultra-right Order of St. Pius X.

Having previously passed both the Assembly and the Senate, the final version of the marriage bill was passed by a comfortable margin of 331 to 225. The law will now be referred to the Constitutional Council, which will review its constitutionality.

Socialist President François Hollande is expected to sign the bill into law, since it fulfills his campaign pledge to give equal marriage and adoption rights to same-sex couples.

GAY BAR ATTACKED
During the night after the final vote on the measure, four men were arrested in the northern city of Lille after they attacked a Gay bar, injuring the manager and destroying property.

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault called for calm as rioting spread from Paris to Lyon, Lille, Bordeaux, and other cities. President Hollande condemned 'homophobic violence' and Interior Minister Manuel Valls warned that the anti-equality had been infiltrated by ultra-right organizations.

Before the vote, police stationed water cannon outside the Parliament building in anticipation of street demonstrations called by right-wing political groups. Police union spokesperson Christophe Crepin told the French English-language newspaper The Local that the extraordinary security had been put in place to protect the city's LGBT community.

As Parliament debated the marriage bill, attacks against same-sex couples spiked and some legislators received threats. Gay rights groups told The Local they have recorded a 30% rise in Gay-bashing incidents in recent months, which they blame on the strident opposition to the marriage bill.

MAIL THREATS
On April 19, the president of the National Assembly received an envelope filled with gunpowder. 'You wanted war, and now you've got it,' a note enclosed with the gunpowder reportedly said.

'Allowing marriage for all would be the same as destroying all marriage,' the note continued. 'If you were to carry on regardless, your political family will have to suffer physically.'

The week before, two Socialist deputies received letters from anti-Gay extremists threatening to kidnap and kill them or their loved ones if the marriage bill were not withdrawn.

The anti-Gay organization Manif pour Tous (Demonstration for All) warned that violence would follow a pro-equality vote. 'Hollande wants blood and he will get it,' Manif Pour Tous head Frigide Barjot declared.

France's top Catholic bishop, Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, also told a meeting of French bishops that the government risked inciting violence if the marriage law was finalized.

DEBATE TURNS PHYSICAL
A fistfight broke out in the Assembly on April 19, as parliament was concluding its debate on the final version of the new marriage law. One government minister said he had never witnessed such an incident in his 30 years in the lower house.

Polls show that a majority of French voters favor the new law, but the Catholic Church and right-wing political parties have been vocal opponents.

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