Anti-Gay Marriage Protesters Fight the Bill and Their Homophobic Label

Anti-Gay Marriage Protest near the Grand Palais on Sunday April 21.  Photo: Eleni Zaras for La Jeune Politique.

Anti-Gay Marriage Protest near the Grand Palais on Sunday April 21.
Photo: Eleni Zaras for La Jeune Politique.

PARIS. –Protesters in Paris for Le Manif pour Tous – protest for all—gathered at Denfert-Rochereau metro station and marched up to Place des Invalides this Sunday April 21, calling for a referendum.  The protestors reported that 270,000 people were there this Sunday while police reported 46,000.  This is not the first discrepancy, as the March 24 protest reported a similar difference between 360,000 and 1.4 million.

As the final vote will be this Tuesday, Le Manif pour Tous is setting their sights on the possibility of a referendum, claiming that 56% of the people are against the bill.  They bore signs reading, “we are the people” and are tired with the press revolving around homophobic acts of violence, as they see themselves as simply the face of the French populous.

But this past week, all of France has seen more action on the gay-marriage front.  A bar in Lille was reportedly attacked April 18by four right-winged extremists, injuring the managers and another employee because of their sexual orientation, bringing even more bad press to the opposition. At the same time in Paris, hundreds of protesters have been arrested this week for provoking authorities and inciting small bouts of violence.

But some frustrated protesters want to show that is not the route of all.  The “veilleurs” or “peaceful vigil” protesters, have been protesting daily and late into the night.  The past few nights they have remained seated on the grass outside the Invalides with candles and scattered posters that say “Calme.” and promote the words of Ghandi.

From extreme homophobes to pacifists, there seem to be a myriad of faces to this debate, even as they all rally around the same cause.

Sophie P., aged 20, has been frequenting the vigils and reiterated, “violence is not the solution.” She explained that the protestors were concerned because “the government is very violent with us.”  Many believe that the government not only not listening, but that the police and media treat the opposition to gay marriage differently, as if inevitably more prone to violence.

“We’re being really democratic” François, 23, says in hopes to counter their representation. “We [France] should be an example, and we’re proud of that.” But now, as they fear their democratic rights are being challenged, they repeatedly chanted, “Liberté d’expression” (freedom of expression) and even “objectivité” at a passing journalist.

 

 

Homophobia is not the root of everyone’s dissatisfaction, François tries to emphasize.  In light of the economic situation, “this is not the right time” to tackle the issue of gay rights.

“Maybe give us ten years to calm down and everything…we might not need this right now, we have a lot of other problems.” He shares the hypothesis that it will be so unpopular that it will “fall in a couple months” and that acceleration of the vote was a ploy to divert attention from other problems within the administration.

Under the umbrella of being against the gay marriage bill, there are a variety of complaints with the contents of the bill, but also with the government’s management of it.

The Hommen is a movement of men against gay marriage that came about partially in response to Femen, the feminist group.  They are always masked and, like Femen demonstrators, often shirtless.  They openly denounce violence and consider themselves a peaceful group. While they are generally considered less radical than other groups such as the “French Spring”, a more aggressive splinter of Le Manif pour Tous, the Hommen warn that the growing opposition is a revolution.

The “Hommen” claim to take the approach of anonymity because “we represent the majority of the French,” a man wearing the white mask with the single black tear explained to me. “We’re crying because we can’t speak to the government.”

“Who is behind the mask, you never know. All you know is that we’re firmly against gay marriage.”  By remaining anonymous, they resign themselves to representing just the face of all French people and to remind everyone that this is not a protest about hate, but about exercising their right to disagree with the government’s plan for gay marriage and hope that the ideas they convey will be taken seriously, will be listened to, and will result in legislative changes.  “We condemn all homophobic acts” and the bad press is just “dishonest communication of the government to discredit [us].”

While violence has been reportedly increasing against homosexuals, it should also be noted that the French people—even all those in opposition to the gay marriage bill—are still a diverse crowd and calm protests have gathered followers who are unhappy with that violent label being stuck onto them.

But, François emphasized that in his eyes, only a small portion of the opponents is homophobic and “the media is always focusing on them, which is tiring. But what really keeps us together is the kids.”

Le Monde reports that in February polls, 66% said they would vote “yes” for gay marriage, but only 47% support adoption for gay couples, so if the bill went to vote by referendum, as le Manif pour Tous is pushing, it would be that uniting concern for family and the children, which Francois described, that would let them win.

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  1. […] successive demonstrations were also the place to watch the new alliances that have emerged on the right. While the continuity […]

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