France: MPs come to blows during equal marriage debate in parliament

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The equal marriage debate in France has come to blows as French Parliamentarians engaged in a heated debate around the issue.

On Friday, the lower house of French National Assembly almost mirrored violent protests outside, around the issue of equal marriage, as MPs came to the end of the capped 25-hour debate around the bill which would allow equal marriage, and same sex couples the right to adopt.

Punches were reportedly thrown in the scuffle, which lasted several minutes, whilst ministers shouted “out”, “out”. One minister said he had never experienced such an incident in his 30 years in the lower house.

The incident, which was attributed to fatigue and the high emotions brought on by the controversial nature of the issue, was condemned by the ruling Socialist party.

A final, and decisive vote on the bill is expected to take place on Tuesday 23 April, and if it passes the final and crucial vote, it will go to the Constitutional Council, which will review its constitutionality. If it is passed by the council, it will be signed into law by President Francois Hollande before being published in the Official Journal of the French Republic.  

On Wednesday thousands of protesters swarmed in Paris to voice their opposition to the bill, with some attacking cars and public property, and lashing out at police and journalists.

11 people from the protest were detained for questioning, while 24 pro-equal marriage counter-protesters were arrested, according to police.

During the night four men were detained after they attacked a gay bar in Lille, injuring the manager and causing property damage.

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, this week called for calm as violent protests marred the start of the National Assembly’s fast tracked final debate on the marriage equality bill.

President Hollande also condemned the “homophobic” violence in France, as well as Interior Minister Manuel Valls, who warned that the movement opposed to equal marriage was being infiltrated by far-right organisations.

Tensions grew after it emerged last week that the National Assembly’s hearing of the marriage equality bill, which last week earned the approval of the Senate, would be brought forward from May.

Frigide Barjot, the figurehead of anti-marriage equality group Manif pour Tous, said it was a sign the French President Francois Hollande “wants blood”, and promised “He will get it”.