France: Riot police in violent clashes with protesters against newly signed equal marriage bill

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Anti-equal marriage protesters faced up to riot police in the centre of paris on Tuesday evening, sparking fierce protest, as France’s Parliament voted to legalise equal marriage.

Protests turned violent, as stones, bottles, and iron bars were used as weapons against riot police deployed to protect parliament. The police eventually used teargas against the violent protesters.

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.

Reports also suggested violent protests in Lyon, where more than 14 people were arrested, reports the Times.

Those in support of the bill, however, hailed Tuesday’s vote as a a victory for equal rights.

Christiane Taubira, the French Justice MInister, on the passing of the legislation, said the first weddings would take place in June, and she said the “beauty” of the ceremonies would bring calm after weeks of debate.

“Those who are opposed to them today will surely be confounded when they are overcome with the happiness of the newlyweds and the families,” she said.

Jean-Luc Romero, 53, who was the first openly gay French politicians, said he could remember a 1960 parliamentary vote, in which homosexuality was labelled “a social curse”. Today he said: “For me, who lived in hiding and in shame for so much of my life, this is a special day.”

In an interview with PinkNews late last year, Mr Romero discussed his hopes for equal marriage, and the radicalisation of the anti-equal marriage campaign.

He said: “The French right wing has recently been more radical than ever and made some declarations that were outrageous. I would like to remind politicians that their role is not to divide or to stir hatred, their duty is to unify society. Some politicians have obviously forgotten France’ s motto, which is, freedom, equality, fraternity.”

On the violence, Mr Romero said: “Can you imagine it? Homosexuals have been beaten up in Paris, the city of tolerance.”

President Hollande’s partner Valérie Trierweiler, ignored advice to keep a low profile during proceedings, and tweeted to say that the vote was an “historic” move.

France’s former Catholic leader, André Vingt-Trois, who last week stepped down as Archbishop of Paris, accused Hollande’s government of “refusing all differences between the sexes”.

In a continuation of what some critics have said is inciting violence, he said that the refusal would “frustrate personal expression . . . That is how you prepare a society of violence.”

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.