France: President Hollande urges calm following violent equal marriage protests

PinkNews logo on a pink background surrounded by illustrated line drawings of a rainbow, pride flag, unicorn and more.

French President Francois Hollande has urged that the country move on after a divisive debate around equal marriage, a bill to legalise which passed on Tuesday, and which led to violent protests by opponents to the measure.

President Hollande expressed his wish for French residents to put the division of the debate behind them. and asked to move on to tackling economic issues.

“Today more than ever the country must rally behind what is expected by many of our countrymen: jobs, recovery and confidence,” he said.

The French President went on to ask for “calm”, and “understanding”, following violent clashes between anti-equal marriage protesters, and riot police yesterday evening.

“In the meantime I am looking and calling on everyone to seek calm, understanding and respect because everything must now be focused and dedicated to what is essential — our country’s economic success and national unity.”

The ruling Socialist party and their allies in the lower house of the National Assembly passed the bill 331 in favour – 225 against, giving same-sex couples the legal right to marry and adopt children.

Tensions caused by the bill were so high “legions” of police officers gathered outside the National Assembly with water cannons while the vote took place.

Following the vote, riot police charged several times to attempt to clear protesters from Les Invalides, however they were forced to move down to the banks of the river Seine, where more violent clashes took place.

The final remaining step before the bill becomes law is for it to be signed by President Francois Hollande, who gave his formal approval to the bill last November.

Opponents hope he may be pressured into dropping the bill, or that it may be challenged through France’s constitutional council.

However, President Hollande has resolutely stuck by his election promise to legalise same-sex marriage in the face of fierce opposition, which has seen hundreds of thousands of French citizens take to the streets denouncing him and his legislation.

It emerged yesterday that the Speaker of the National Assembly, Claude Bartolone, received a threatening letter containing ammunition powder, asking him to delay the vote.

“Our methods are more radical and direct than the protests, you wanted war, you have it,” the letter stated.

Despite the vicious backlashes, ahead of the French Parliament’s final vote on equal marriage, a couple announced their plans to wed in the southern city of Montpellier, nicknamed the French San Francisco in a ceremony which is set to prove to be symbolic.

Last week, President Hollande also condemned displays of homophobic violence.