April 23, 2013

France approves gay marriage, violent protests erupt

France becomes the 14th country to legalize gay marriage, but within hours, fiery clashes break out between protestors and police.

The Associated Press

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Pro gay marriage activists kiss after French lawmakers legalized same-sex marriage, Tuesday, April 23, 2013 in Paris. Lawmakers legalized same-sex marriage after months of bruising debate and street protests that brought hundreds of thousands to Paris. Tuesday's 331-225 vote came in the Socialist majority National Assembly. France's justice minister, Christiane Taubira, said the first weddings could be as soon as June. Poster rends: Medically Assisted Reproduction.(AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

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Demonstrators face riot police, Tuesday, April 23, 2013 in Paris. Clashes break out near France's National Assembly building hours after the country legalized gay marriage. The 331-225 vote came after months of wrenching debate. France's justice minister say weddings could begin as early as June. Some protesters hurl glass bottles, cans and metal bars; police are responding with tear gas. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

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"The opposition is in a weakened position, but they know which buttons to press in order to get a reaction in society, in a country as liberal as France, where nobody thought it was an issue," said Hossein Alizadeh, a coordinator with the U.S.-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission who has followed the issue.

But the most visible face in the fight against gay marriage — a former comedienne who goes by the name of Frigide Barjot — said the movement named "A Protest for Everyone" will continue beyond the law's passage and possibly field candidates in 2014 municipal elections. She said anyone involved in protest violence would be marginalized, but blamed the government for its failure to listen.

"The violence comes from the way in which this was imposed," Barjot told France Info radio.

French conservatives, demoralized and divided by the election loss of standard-bearer Nicolas Sarkozy, found common cause in opposing same-sex marriage. Hoping to keep the issue alive, the conservative UMP party planned to challenge the law in the Constitutional Council.

"The controversy that we've seen has been a stoked and manipulated controversy that's really kind of a last-ditch attempt to block the tide of history," said Evan Wolfson, president of the American activist group Freedom to Marry, which he said worked with the French on the bill. "I don't think it spoke to a deep or wide opposition among the French people."

French civil unions, allowed since 1999, are at least as popular among heterosexuals as among gay and lesbian couples. But that law has no provisions for adoption, and the strongest opposition in France as far as same-sex couples goes comes when children are involved. According to recent polls, just over half of French are opposed to adoption by same-sex couples — about the same number who said they favored same-sex marriage.

Christophe Crepin, spokesman for the police union UNSA, says the extraordinary security Tuesday included a total of about 4,000 officers in the area near the National Assembly building and water cannon positioned nearby.

On the cover of Tuesday's Liberation newspaper, the famed gay photographers Pierre and Gilles took over the front page and several of the inside pages, splashing them with some of their most provocative photos, including one of three soccer players — nude but for the footwear — facing the camera.

In New Zealand, where gay marriage enjoys popular support, people gathered outside Parliament and joined in singing a traditional Maori love ballad after a vote last week making it legal. Nine states and the District of Columbia in the U.S. also recognize such marriages, but the federal government does not.

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Pro gay marriage activists pose after French lawmakers legalized same-sex marriage, Tuesday, April 23, 2013 in Paris. Lawmakers legalized same-sex marriage after months of bruising debate and street protests that brought hundreds of thousands to Paris. Tuesday's 331-225 vote came in the Socialist majority National Assembly. France's justice minister, Christiane Taubira, said the first weddings could be as soon as June. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

click image to enlarge

Pro gay marriage activists celebrate after French lawmakers legalized same-sex marriage, Tuesday, April 23, 2013 in Paris. Lawmakers legalized same-sex marriage after months of bruising debate and street protests that brought hundreds of thousands to Paris. Tuesday's 331-225 vote came in the Socialist majority National Assembly. France's justice minister, Christiane Taubira, said the first weddings could be as soon as June. Poster reads: Medically Assisted Reproduction. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

click image to enlarge

Anti-gay marriage activists hold smoke flares with the color of the logo of the movement during a rally to protest the new law after French lawmakers legalized same-sex marriage, Tuesday, April 23, 2013, in Paris. Lawmakers legalized same-sex marriage after months of debate and street protests that brought many thousands to protest in Paris. Tuesday's 331-225 vote came in the Socialist majority National Assembly and France's justice minister, Christiane Taubira, said the first weddings could be as soon as June. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

click image to enlarge

Demonstrators clashes with riot police, Tuesday, April 23, 2013 in Paris. Clashes break out near France's National Assembly building hours after the country legalized gay marriage. The 331-225 vote came after months of wrenching debate. France's justice minister say weddings could begin as early as June. Some protesters hurl glass bottles, cans and metal bars; police are responding with tear gas. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

  


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