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France

Gay rights groups blame anti-gay marriage campaign for hate attacks

media Photos posted by Wilfred de Bruijn (L) and "Sylvain" on Facebook after … Screengrab Facebook

French gay rights groups claim there has been a rise in homophobic incidents during the campaign against the government’s gay marriage bill. A group demanding a more radical turn has splits from the main organisers and launched direct action against supporters of the move.

Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoë on Monday slammed a “brutal homophobic attack” after a gay couple, Dutch national Wilfred de Bruijn and his partner Olivier, were badly beaten while they walked arm in arm on a Paris street on Sunday night.

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De Brujin says he lost consciousness after being beaten by a group who shouted, “Ah, some homosexuals!” before attacking them.

Police report that another man, Sylvain, was attacked elsewhere while walking with his partner in the city the same night.

Gay rights groups were quick to link the attacks to an alleged rise in homophobia during the campaign against the government’s gay marriage bill.

More than 60 incidents were reported in the last week, according to the SOS Homophobie group.

Homophobic incidents rose from 1554 in 2011 to 2,000 in 2012 and there were as many in January and March as in the preceding six months, according to SOS Homophobie’s Elisabeth Ronzier.

Delanoë also condemned an incident on Saturday night during which a group flyposted the walls, doors and windows of a community centre where an event marking “gay, lesbian and transsexual spring” was being held.

A newly formed group, calling itself Printemps français (French spring), claimed responsibility for the action and posted a video it on the web.

The organisers of recent demonstrations against the marriage-for-all bill condemned the vandalism, as did the mainstream right-wing UMP party, which has backed the anti-gay marriage campaign.

“We have nothing to do with them,” said protest leader Frigide Barjot (Virginie Tellenne), declaring that the Printemps français compromised the campaign.

Stressing that he did not encourage law-breaking, UMP MP Hervé Mariton conceded that “at a given moment, the intensity of the demands can overstep the rules of the democratic game and our capacity to contain the debate”.

The Printemps français, which claims to be echoing 2010-2011’s Arab Spring, was set up the day after the huge demonstration in Paris on 24 March by Barjot’s former second-in-command, Béatrice Bourges.

She has judged Barjot’s movement too cuddly and declared that, after the riot police’s use of teargas against part of the protest, “we have entered into resistance”.

Other incidents have indicated growing radicalisation of some anti-gay marriage campaigners:

  • Socialist MP Erwann Binet, closely associated with the bill, has cancelled public appearances after two meetings at universities were broken up by demonstrators, some shouting “France for the French!” and “Hollande resign!” and associated with the far-right group Jeunesses natonalistes (Nationalist Youth);
  • The car of Green Senator Esther Benbassa was vandalised outside her home on Saturday night and she reports receiving threats by phone, email and post;
  • Centre-right MP and former environment minister Chantal Jouanno, who backs the bill, was woken up by a noisy street protest outside her home at dawn on Thursday;
  • Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, Families Minister Dominique Bertinotti and Interior Minister Manuel Valls have been targeted by demonstrators, as was President François Hollande on a visit to the south-west last weekend.

Former prime minister and UMP member Jean-Pierre Raffarin indignantly rejected charges of homophobia during the Senate debate of the bill on Monday.

“We respect every citizen, whatever their sexual practices,” he said. “”We can’t accept this violence.”

He was responding to Communist Senator Pierre Laurent, who described the opposition’s arguments as displaying “in some cases a frank and brutal homophobia, in others a shamefaced, concealed homophobia”.

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