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Same-sex marriage (SSM) and civil unions In France

Part 8: 2013-2014: Suicide triggered by bill
becoming law. Rise in gay bashing. A look
back one year later.

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This topic continues from the previous essay

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2013-MAY-21: Man commits suicide, perhaps because of the SSM law:

A man identified as Dominique Venner, 78, entered the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, walked up to the altar, placed a letter there, pulled out a shotgun, shot himself in the head, and died. There were about 1,500 visitors in the Cathedral at the time who were quickly cleared out. Monsignor Patrick Jacquin, the cathedral's rector, said:

"It's unfortunate, it's dramatic, it's shocking. The motives for the suicide, and the contents of the man's letter, were unclear."

The suicide letter allegedly said:

"I believe it is necessary to sacrifice myself to break with the lethargy that is overwhelming us. I am killing myself to awaken slumbering consciences."

Harlem Desir, the head of the ruling Socialist Party said:

"The bill has been approved and opponents of marriage for everyone need to understand that it is now the law of the Republic."

Marine Le Pen, leader of the extreme right wing National Front issued the following rather ambiguous tweet:

"All respect to Dominique Venner whose final, eminently political act was to try to wake up the people of France. It is in life and hope that France will renew and save itself."

In Venner's blog, he describes himself as as a historian and essayist. It describes his unsuccessful activities fighting against the law legalizing same-sex marriage in the country. The bill was signed into law three days previous to the suicide. It would appear that his and other protestors' failure to preserve marriage inequality in the country triggered the suicide. He simply could not tolerate having to continue living in a country that attained marriage equality. 1,2

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2013-MAY-26: Massive demonstration against SSM turns violent:

A massive demonstration against the new same-sex marriage law attracted an estimated 150,000 protestors to the Esplanade des Invalides across the Seine River from the Champs Elysees. OnTopMag.com reported that more than an hour after the main demonstration, when most of the protestors had dispersed, some 200 activists attacked riot police, TV camera crews and press photographers using bottles, stones, fireworks and flares. The police arrested 98 allegedly violent demonstrators. 3

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2013-MAY-29: The first French same-sex marriage solemnized:

Vincent Autin and Bruno Boileau became to the first same-sex couple to marry under France's marriage law. 500 guests attended the ceremony. 200 journalists covered the wedding. 4

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2013-JUN-05: Gay rights campaigner beaten and left brain-dead:

Clément Méric, 18, was violently attacked by a group of three members of the far-right JNR party.

Reacting to the assault, the left-leaning democratic socialist party issued a statement:

"The horror of fascism has just killed right in the middle of Paris.

Violently beaten to the ground by a group of activists from the extreme right, manifestly from the group JNR (Jeune Nationaliste Revolutionnaire), left motionless, he was declared this evening to be in a state of brain death at Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris."

Méric fellow students and teachers described him as a model student with a strong social conscience. Fellow student/activist Raphaelle Remy-Lele sad that:

"He was someone who was firm in his beliefs, but not aggressive."

Serge Ayoub, the leader of JNR, Serge Ayoub, has denied his group’s involvement in the attack.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that:

"President Francois Hollande sent his 'support and solidarity' to the family of the victim. ... Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault vowed to 'find legal and political responses to beat racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic movements'." 5

A major rise in the frequency of physical attacks on gays has been seen throughout France, apparently by the far right reacting to legislation that allows same-sex couples to marry. 6

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2014-APR-23: A look back on the first anniversary of the passage of the same-sex marriage bill by the French Parliament:

The violent public demonstrations against marriage equality sponsored by conservative religious and political groups before the bill was passed continued after same-sex marriages began. They have since died down. Mr. Binet, who sponsored the bill in Parliament, commented:

"Each time there was a victory for equal rights in France, we did it confrontationally."

More than 7,000 marriages involving same-sex couples have been solemnized in the past year. Most were between two middle-aged men. Over 1,000 were celebrated in Paris.

Many people who opposed marriage equality objected mainly to the bill's provision that same-sex couples can adopt children. They feel that it is important that children be raised by a mother and a father.

Complete marriage equality has yet to be achieved in France because government financial support for artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization is provided for opposite-sex married couples not to same-sex married couples.

The mayors in some towns refused to marry same-sex couples, but arranged for their deputies to conduct the ceremonies. The mayor of Fontgombault, a small village in central France, was one mayor who refused to marry a couple. He said that his beliefs made it impossible for him to solemnize a marriage because there are:

"... laws of nature that are higher than the laws of man."

A number of lawsuits have been filed by same-sex couples against mayors who refused to solemnize the couples' weddings. None have been ruled upon to date. 7

As in the U.S., it seems that every advance towards equality for the LGBT community results in religious conservatives demanding the religious freedom to discriminate against sexual minorities.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Visitors evacuate after suicide at Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral," Associated Press, 2013-MAY-21, at: http://www.cbsnews.com/
  2. "Suicide on Paris cathedral altar stirs France's far right," CBC News, 2013-MAY-22, at: http://www.cbc.ca/
  3. OnTopMag.com. "Activists arrested In Paris protesting gay marriage," 2013-MAY-27, at: http://chicago.gopride.com/
  4. Drew Schmenner, "Same-sex marriage: First couple weds in France ...," MyDesert.com, 2013-MAY-29, at: http://voices.mydesert.com/
  5. "French activist dies after skinhead fight," The Sydney Morning Herald, 2013-JUN-07, at: http://www.smh.com.au/
  6. Scott Roberts, "France: Gay rights campaigner, 18, left brain dead after far-right attack," Pink News, 2013-JUN-06, at: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/
  7. Maia de la Baume & Alissa J. Rubin, "France Joins Gay Couples by Thousands, Amid Gripes," New York Times, 2014-APR-24, at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/25/world/europe/thousands-of-same-sex-couples-have-married-in-france.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0

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Copyright © 2013 & 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2013-MAY-21
Latest updated: 2014-APR-26
Author: B.A. Robinson
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