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France: Activists say anti-gay activity on rise as marriage debated

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI — “Sorry to show you this,”  writes Wilfred de Bruijn on Facebook. “It’s the face of homophobia. Last night 19th arrondissement, Paris, Olivier and I were badly beaten just for walking arm in arm."

De Bruijn says he woke up in an ambulance after the attack, "covered in blood," missing a tooth and with broken bones around the eye, Pink News reports.

Gay rights activists blame opposition to the Socialist government's gay marriage bill for what they say is an uptick in homophobic incidents since October.

“These people say they are not homophobic but they are," the president of gay rights group SOS Homophobie, Elisabeth Ronzier, is quoted as saying. "Homophobia has become trivialized, which is proved by the number of verbal assaults on gay people, which often to lead to physical assaults.”

But anti-gay-marriage group Manif Pour Tous, which says it condemns the attack on the couple, says SOS Homophobie "should be ashamed for trying to blame us for these acts."  

Speaking on behalf of Manif Pour Tous, Xavier Bongibault says there is "no link whatsoever" to the group. "We have said since the beginning that we are not against homosexuals, we are simply against the government’s legislation.”

Opposition to gay marriage has been led predominantly by the Catholic Church and the political right, but leaders of almost all the major faiths in France have publicly opposed the bill.

Meanwhile, an anti-gay group that calls itself Le Printemps Français (French Spring) posted a video of its members putting up pro-traditional-marriage posters on the walls outside a queer centre in the city, Gay Star News (GSN) says. 

According to GSN, the video was reportedly taken down but was later reposted on YouTube. The president of Le Printemps Français, Béatrice Bourges, had congratulated those who were involved in the act via Twitter but apparently deleted the message. 

Le Printemps Français is described as a collective made up of "hardline Catholics and royalists" who have split from the Manif Pour Tous movement. Manif Pour Tous says it condemns the actions of Le Printemps Français. 

Paris's first deputy mayor, Anne Hidalgo, has also condemned the group's action, saying "Paris is and will remain a city of tolerance." 

A rally against homophobic violence is scheduled to take place tomorrow, April 10  in the gay district of the Marais, GSN reports.

Manif Pour Tous representatives have asked to join gay rights activists for the rally but have so far not received a response to their request.

In February, France's lower house of parliament approved the bill to legalize gay marriage by a vote of 329 to 229. The bill is now before the Senate, which is also controlled by the Socialists and their allies.

More coverage below:

France: Thousands march against gay marriage

France: Gay marriage fight pits left vs right, urban vs rural

More protests against gay marriage in France

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