France: Watchdog reports 27% spike in homophobia leading up to equal marriage debate

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A leading gay rights watchdog has reported that, in 2012 leading up to the French Parliament’s approval of a bill to allow equal marriage and adoption, homophobic attacks and slurs increased by over a quarter.

SOS Homophobie said it had recorded 1,977 calls on this helpline in 2012, representing a 27% increase from the year before.

The head of the group Elisabeth Ronzier, described the last few months in 2012 as “intense” with hate speech, particularly on the internet, increasing drastically.

In October, she said, incidents had doubled from 2011, and December’s numbers had tripled, compared with the year before.

Because the interior or justice ministries do not release figures, SOS Homophobie is considered a sole barometer for the level of homophobia in France.

Late last month, 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.

The bill has been challenged by France’s Constitutional Council, and once it rules, the President has said he will sign the bill into law. A decision is expected by the council later this month.

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.

After the vote, several politicians, including an openly-gay mayor, received bullets, and death threats in the post.

The Speaker of the National Assembly, Claude Bartolone, also received a threatening letter containing ammunition powder, asking him to delay the vote on equal marriage.

Socialist deputies Sylviane Bulteau and Hugues Fourage also received letters from anti-equal marriage extremists, which threatened their families with kidnap, the equal marriage bill was not withdrawn.

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.

President Hollande urged the country to move on after the divisive debate around equal marriage.

A recent suggests that the French public may now move on from the vicious debate around equal marriage, as 67% of French people said that anti-equal marriage protests should stop.

The division is unlikely to go away immediately, however; as protests are planned for 26 May across France.