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Protesters Crowd Streets of Paris Ahead of Final French Vote on Marriage Equality: VIDEO


Anti-gay protesters crowded the streets of Paris today ahead of a French parliament vote on Tuesday in which it is expected to adopt marriage equality, Deutsche Welle reports:

Protest organizers said between 30,000 and 50,000 people took part in the demonstration in the Montparnasse area of Paris on Sunday. A rival protest in support of the legislation was also held on Sunday but gathered fewer participants.

Two thousand security officers were on hand to ensure the throngs remained peaceful after demonstrations earlier in the week led to a bit of violence.

Protests were held three nights running, from Wednesday to Friday, and some of the hard-core opponents clashed with police. More than 100 arrests were made throughout the week.

Watch a Euronews report, AFTER THE JUMP...

AFP adds:

In a series of guerrilla actions, activists opposed to the bill have staged dawn protests outside ministers’ homes, vandalised cars, assaulted journalists and even blocked a fast train carrying a prominent gay marriage campaigner. One Socialist MP received death threats, and there are reports that two attacks on gay bars, one in Bordeaux and the other in Lille, were linked to rising anti-gay sentiment fed by the protests. So why the explosive outrage in the land of liberty, fraternity and equality?

Some argue that it is simply part of a wider backlash against what is seen as a corrupt, incompetent political class, prompted by Mr Hollande’s inability to tackle unemployment and the discovery that the government’s tax tsar had a secret Swiss bank account.

But the French Right has seized on the gay marriage issue to rally its demoralised electorate. Given the mess that Mr Hollande’s Socialist administration is making of the economy, Right wingers argue, the Left has no right to legislate on moral issues as well.

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  1. I am a huge francophile and speak the language but am really puzzled by this. How could such an educated country, a country so dedicated to art, and fashion and literature, and to secularism, be so anti gay? They are all nothing but warm to me and it's not hard to tell I'm gay.

    Must have missed something on my last trip there.

    Posted by: Rob | Apr 21, 2013 6:52:18 PM

  2. And to extend my debunking of your speculation about their impact on electoral politics ...
    French right-wing voters already have TWO options from serious parties to vote against SSM if they are single-issue voters - and the single issue voters for this are very very few and they will be even fewer in 2017 which are the next national elections: the UMP and the FN. Why in hell would they vote for a minor party instead?
    Secondly the French legislative system does not leave any room for a a minor party to have deputes elected. it is a runoff system. Not gonna happen.
    The danger that some point out is that the "movement" energizes a vocally conservative youth (again small numbers but in a world where political apathy wins the day thats all it takes) that will then be integrated in mainstream right-wing UMP when they get older (like many of the current establishment left got their training in troskyist student unions two decades ago) and pull THAT party to the right.
    I find that to be dubious in the sense that the danger is mainly about troglodyte racial attitudes (and future alliances with the FN).
    Again, the fact SSM opposition is very vocal now does not mean it will be in any way a realigning debate in French politics. Most French people are over this debate and it will be like it was in any other country and state that passed it. Most people won't give a you-know-what in a year.
    The rightization of the French right started with Sarkozy and is more dangerous when it comes to racial tensions. The SSM stuff will be forgotten com 2017.
    All those breathless pronouncements is the spin THEY want the media to report. If you talk to actual French people, it is clear it is all hype and very little impact.

    Posted by: titbug | Apr 21, 2013 6:56:55 PM

  3. You understood perfectly correctly Muscleblog.

    And dear Rob. This pisses me off to no end."How could such an educated country, a country so dedicated to art, and fashion and literature, and to secularism, be so anti gay?"

    How about: it is not? How about: a demonstration of 50 000 in a country of 65 million does not replace years of polls showing support for SSM at two-thirds of the population?
    What is wrong with all of you? Does not seem that hard to understand that a vocal minority - even heavily covered by the media - does not make public opinion?

    Posted by: titbug | Apr 21, 2013 7:02:31 PM

  4. I am very annoyed at those who say that these protests don't matter because the law will pass anyway. This is also the justification that the French gays and the French Left use to sit back passively instead of demonstrating their support for the law.

    While it may be true that the law will pass in spite of these anti-gay protests, the *way* in which the law passes does matter.

    Passage of marriage equality following a civil debate and strong multiparty support (as happened in Denmark, New Zealand and the UK) can boost the cause in other countries. By contrast, if it is seen as something that is hugely controversial and something that provokes public opposition, then that will make future governments in countries like Germany, Italy, Austria and the Czech Republic think twice about going anywhere near the issue. And the more divisive it seems and the more it is portrayed as an important issue for conservative voters, the greater the likelihood that there would be a repeal effort once the conservatives retake power.

    The passivity and laziness of the French gays and their allies is helping to turn a popular measure into one that has the reputation of being risky and a vote loser. Shame on them.

    Posted by: Sara | Apr 21, 2013 7:31:16 PM

  5. I understand how you feel Sara but I can assure you that the decision to take on SSM or not in those countries will have zero link to the current French debate. For instance, a sizable part of the German conservatives are currently pressing for a SSM debate that Merkel is preventing because of the CSU.
    I think you are overstating how each European political scene is interacting with each other. For better or for worse, the national cultures are too different for it to matter.
    And in the sense that they do observe what is happening, it is more significant to them as an observation of French politics than it is about the politics of SSM. Europeans are keenly aware of their differences and they know how the French turn everything in major drama.

    Posted by: titbug | Apr 21, 2013 7:47:13 PM

  6. Titbug -

    I hope you are right. But it is hard to see why the German and Austrian rightwing wouldn't take notice of France and be more likely to turn it into a galvanizing issue. If the demonstrators had been more balanced, there would be less of a temptation. Incidentally, the police put this demo at 45,000 and the pro-gay demo at 3,500. Considering that our side is the majority position and considering that this issue will actually impact gay people (and will not impact the lives of the Manif demonstrators at all) it is pathetic and shameful that our side is outnumbered by 13:1. What exactly are these French gays doing today that is so important that they couldn't come out to demonstrate?

    Anyway, I just read that according to Le Parisien, a BVA poll taken this week shows 58% support for marriage equality but 53% opposition to gay adoption. The BVA number on support for gay marriage is 5% better than the results of an April 4 CSA poll, and the adoption number is the same as the CSA poll.

    However, I would really like to compare this BVA poll to the previous BVA poll, since this most recent poll was taken after the acts of vandalism by Printemps and violent attacks on gay bars. I'd be interested in seeing whether the violence and extremism of Manif Pour Tous has had any impact on public opinion. If this had been going on in the US, support certainly would have dropped for Manif following reports of violence. Unfortunately, I cannot find the BVA polls online.

    Posted by: Sara | Apr 21, 2013 8:11:11 PM

  7. 1) On the polling issue, it is simple. As I said earlier support for SSM has stayed steady in polls from different polling institutes at around 60%. Adoption - because that has been the main talking point of the opponents - has suffered but most polls find the divide between 45-45 and 5055/45 against. But remember one thing: you are at the height of the debate. It is highly politicized (I mentioned before my mom with two gay sons and no problem with SSM until the right-wing party she votes for made it an issue against Hollande whom she loathes) right now and the opponents are on TV all the time giving their opinion. If these are the numbers at the worst of the worst of the debate, you can sleep soundly. In six months I predict support back uo at 65-70. Adoption will be back to what it was before all this which was a slim majority for it within six months as well. Don't sweat the numbers. If this is the worst they can do when the debate is at its hottest, then really that shows that the French are very supportive contra the cliches spouted here and there in this comment section.

    2) German and Austrian conservatives could not care less what the French do. You misunderstand the interaction between the different European countries' politics. There will be zero impact. Nil. They don't care about the French. And they know their own country and France enough to know those are two very different people who react very differently to things. And if admitting that other countries politics was a source of inspiration or fear (again: not) for them, why wouldn't they be as inspired by the English example instead? English institutions and English culture are much much much closer to the German than the French are (do I need to tell you why there is no history of German demonstrations and street movements in the modern era?). And it went pretty smoothly there. What will matter will be their own assessment of where the German public is and the polling shows it to be open.
    Interestingly, I would think your own comparisons between the Spanish and French examples would illustrate what Europeans themselves are well aware of: they are very different from each other, their political dynamic are very different, the contexts are always different. They know each other well enough to know that.

    Posted by: titbug | Apr 21, 2013 8:31:40 PM

  8. - Polling:

    I agree with you completely that the polls worsen as the debate intensifies and then they improve. We have seen the same phenomenon in the US, where the steady growth of support for SSM experienced a sharp dip during the 2004 election, when President Bush made it an issue. Then it resumed its previous trend. We have seen the same thing in New Zealand and in individual US states. Support goes up, then it dips during the actual debate preceding a vote, and then it resumes its previous trend. Indeed, in individual US states, passage of the law results in an increase in the rate at which support for SSM grows. So I agree that 6-12 months from now, we should see better polls than today.

    However, I was getting at a different issue, which is whether the recent violence might have harmed Manif. The only way to determine that is to compare polls from immediately before the violence to those immediately after.

    - Other European countries:

    I didn't mention Spain, so I am not sure what you are talking about.

    As far as Germany and other countries looking to the UK as an example, I would say that in the UK too, there was passivity and inaction on the part of the pro-gay side. Public demonstrations were less of an issue, but the "passion gap" showed up in other ways, such as the disparity in telephone calls and emails to MPs, submissions during the consultation phase, and signatories on public petitions. As a result, while the pro-equality side looks like it will come out the winner, the issue became more contentious and more controversial than it needed to be. More Tories voted against than voted for, which meant that the government needed opposition votes to get it passed. The whole issue now is seen as popular, but deeply divisive for the Conservative Party. I doubt that PM David Cameron is happy that he pushed the issue.

    This has consequences. So for example, if I were the head of the Liberal Party in Australia (which is their right wing party), the UK experience would not embolden me to move forward on this issue. Could this have been minimized if our side had been more vocal and active, dominating the consultation phase and persuading a majority of Tory MPs to vote in favor? I don't know, but when has inaction and apathy ever made anything better? Whether this same dynamic might impact other conservative leaders outside the Anglosphere, such as Angela Merkel, I don't know. I appreciate your confidence that it won't and I hope you are correct.

    Posted by: Sara | Apr 21, 2013 9:24:19 PM

  9. Gay marriage polls in France aren't at 65% from what I've seen. It's dropped to the mid/upper-50s. It was in the 60s and then dropped. The last one I've just seen has it at 58%. I've seen the numbers fluctuate between 53-58%. So it's somewhere in the mid-to-upper 50's. A majority but not a major one. Adoption numbers have also dropped and are below 50% now. So something has happened in the country and support for equality isn't rising. We can't just write that off as right-wing extremists; it's clear this is a backlash against our community occurring in France as a result of Catholics driving up hatred.

    Attacking France as a country is inappropriate, though.

    Posted by: Francis #1 | Apr 21, 2013 9:45:48 PM

  10. Well funny you mention the Australia Liberal Party because this very week the Liberal premier of New South Wales came out in favor of same-sex marriage and Tony Abbott - the leader known henceforth as the mad monk - signaled in private to the Australian that after the election in September they will switch their position from a whipped vote against SSM to a free vote. Considering the numbers in both parties, that means there will be a potential bipartisan majority for it (depending on the results of the election). It won't pass just yet but that a man known for his extremely conservative views would signal a change of policy like this is proof that, again, each political context is different.
    No, French political demonstrations won't have any impact on any other country.

    And ,Francis, I stand by what I said that the number is steady at 55-60% depending on the methodology. That's a healthy majority, especially again in the midst of the heated debate where the politicization is at its height. And yes there is now a slight majority against adoption - again there was a slight majority for it only two months ago which is proof that what is moving the numbers is not a deep homophobia but the tenor of the debate and that once the souffle falls back and the politics is taken out of it, it will be back to what it was before. If the French were homophobes, those numbers would have been negative in the first place. The fact they are losing a few points is proof that what is turning people off is the association with each political party - not the underlying issue where, when there was no politics involved, noone cared about.
    Didn't you read the study that showed that once told Obama supported the abrogation of a fictitious law, a huge majority of Republicans suddenly strongly supported that law - that again didn't exist? Same thing. The minute this became Hollande's same-sex marriage bill rather than a same-sex marriage bill, it became tribally correct for right-wing voters to express distaste for it. It won't matter in six months.

    There is no backlash among the general population. There is a very vocal minority using this to reenergize their troops. Most random citizens are over this debate and wants this to be over so France can focus on its major economic problems. They don't care anymore and wants this to be done and over with. It is very easy to be disheartened and impressed because the media coverage hypes up the movement. And it is an interesting movement to dissect and it does hold some interest to rediscover a rarely-seen but longstanding part of the French populace (the people who supported the leagues in 1934 for instance). But you all have to be wary of overstating its significance in the long - or even middle - term.

    Posted by: titbug | Apr 21, 2013 10:00:51 PM

  11. On what do the French, who oppose gay marriage, base their opposition? I doubt it is religion. Most French people are Roman Catholics in name only. Fewer than 12% or 13% of them attend Mass regularly and in Paris, Mass attendance is said to be in the single digits. The great majority of French people like the great majority of Western Europeans ignore the Church's teachings on morality.

    Posted by: andrew | Apr 21, 2013 11:09:08 PM

  12. Which is why "The French" do not oppose same-sex marriage.
    A vocal minority of actively Catholic and Muslim French do and those are the ones you see in the street.
    They may be a minority but there are a coherent community that can mobilize and be visible as you see right here.
    But "The French" do not.

    Posted by: titbug | Apr 21, 2013 11:42:20 PM

  13. Someone correctly pointed out that support for marriage equality has dropped to about 53 percent in the latest polls. The antigay marches and protests have eroded equality support.

    Posted by: Javier | Apr 21, 2013 11:52:25 PM

  14. No, Javier. They dropped to 53% in one poll and stick to nearer 60% in all others.

    And as I said many times, how do you explain support dropping if you believe that? Why would people suddenly realize they have a problem with SSM that they did not have a month ago? Because, once again, the debate has become a proxy for a right/left divide and has become identified with an unpopular president.
    Homophobes wouldn't have supported SSM then suddenly changed their mind. The drop in support is linked to the political significance of the question as the political debate unfolds. If people were up to 65% supportive of the underlying issue, obviously, they will go back to not caring once the political significance of it will drop.

    Not hard to figure out.

    Posted by: titbug | Apr 22, 2013 12:10:17 AM

  15. The most important parts of the bill: marriage and adoption were voted without any modification in both chambers. There were some other small changes in the Senate which the lower house will likely accept. I am not even sure what the protesters want to accomplish. It is already water under the bridge.

    Posted by: simon | Apr 22, 2013 1:05:20 AM

  16. Reuters quoted an April BFM-TV poll that found that 53 percent of the French public supports same-sex marriage. Support for allowing same-sex couples to adopt is not quite as strong, at 41 percent. Four months ago, the French public polled with some 48 percent in favor of same-sex couples being granted the right to adopt children.

    Posted by: Javier | Apr 22, 2013 9:18:32 AM

  17. I don't understand why you keep repeating the same thing Javier.
    Yes there was one poll that said 53. other polls taken at the same time said higher. I am sure you have been around enough to know different polling houses get different results depending on the question, the sampling, etc.
    The media quotes the most "dramatic" of the polls rather than the ones that show no movement? Shocker.

    Posted by: titbug | Apr 22, 2013 10:38:25 AM

  18. You know what, the comments about this when it comes to France are ALWAYS so weirdly off-base. Clearly, Towleroad has an anti-French streak of trolls who cannot understand that one country can have a diversity of people and views in it, and that incidents do not always reflect the viewpoint of every person of that nationality.

    Do you people think the Westboro Baptist Church represents the ENTIRE USA and ALL AMERICANS...? Then why would you make overly generalised statements like some of the ridiculous BS ? France is generally very liberal, quite friendly to homosexuals, homosexuals can already get civil unions!

    You people keep mentioning how you are dissappointed by the anti-gay marches - are you living here? Are you aware there are also pro-gay marches? Are you aware that marches and protests are an everyday occurrence here...?

    Please people, attack the French conservatives, instead of the entire country. Because the vast majority of it is pro-gay and pretty sexually liberal, especially compared to the USA.

    "How could such an educated country, a country so dedicated to art, and fashion and literature, and to secularism, be so anti gay?"

    ...because it isn't. It's extremely pro-gay.

    Posted by: DONOVAN | Apr 22, 2013 1:03:43 PM

  19. Heterosexual couples show straight marriage leads to a life of crime! Full story at 11!

    Posted by: Garst | Apr 22, 2013 1:16:40 PM

  20. Good analysis, Craig Nelson. I would add a few things.

    Everyone is angry with the socialist government; the right, because of the socialist's anti-business posturing and tax increases, and the left, because where the rubber hits the road on issues of labor law, austerity-induced economic depression, and the euro stability pact, the 'socialists' are essentially caving to the neo-liberal, euro- integrationist, big capital agenda of the continent's technocratic elite, who , whether they call themselves center-left or center-right,have completely abandoned the ordinary people.French people are scared and hurting, and feel abandoned by a government that is totally out of touch.

    In that context, it was incredibly tone-deaf of the government to introduce marriage equality at this moment. It gives the populist hard right a scapegoat in the gays, to ramp up their hate politics. Unfortunately it is allowing 'phobes to come out of the closet, emboldening and legitimating anti-gay hate in a new way that may have a lasting impact.
    Another factor is that France's LGBT community doesn't really have homegrown activism or political and media presence to anything near the extent of the US. so they aren't prepared to combat this. Instead, historically and culturally , France has had a more tolerant and realistic, and less shrilly politicized. view of human sexuality in general, which extended to gay people.

    In my opinion, it would have been wiser, from the point of view of LGBT people in France, to have just stuck with the broadly popular PACS civil union for now, which was a good reflection of where their mainstream consensus was - (ahead of the US, actually .)

    I think it remains to be seen how this will play out for France's LGBT community in the future - whether there will be a lasting upsurge and new acceptability of hate, and if so, whether the community and allies will be able to organize an effective response. It is certainly possible, as those currents exist in France, most obviously in its' racism.

    Posted by: Hank | Apr 22, 2013 4:40:25 PM

  21. Hank:
    "Good anaysis"?? "Everyone" was angry with Obama and he got reelected.It is a mad mad world. Isn't it?

    Posted by: simon | Apr 22, 2013 6:32:04 PM

  22. "Another factor is that France's LGBT community doesn't really have homegrown activism or political and media presence to anything near the extent of the US. so they aren't prepared to combat this. Instead, historically and culturally , France has had a more tolerant and realistic, and less shrilly politicized. view of human sexuality in general, which extended to gay people."

    If true, this observation seems like it might have substantial explanatory power. Interesting. And where does bisexuality fit into this social/cultural/political puzzle? Am I right to think of France as a place where bisexuality has been much more open? (I'm thinking of several prominent movies, etc.) If so, have non-bisexual gays there felt less of a need to galvanize themselves to protect their very personhoods?

    Is my above line of thought helpful in any context?

    Posted by: just_a_guy | Apr 23, 2013 12:40:22 AM

  23. Good job protesters.

    Do W H A T E V E R it takes to stop the

    spread of this H O R R E N D O U S L Y A B O M I N A B L E O F F E N S E before
    G O D.

    Posted by: John Lutz | Apr 23, 2013 4:05:31 AM

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