French gays protest as marriage law spurs violence

Wed Apr 10, 2013 11:55am EDT
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By Tara Oakes

PARIS (Reuters) - A gay man beaten up in Paris this month is using a photo of his injuries to fuel a growing protest for equality, as a divisive reform bill to allow same-sex marriage in France drives a spate of homophobic attacks.

A photo taken of Wilfred de Bruijn's battered and bruised face shortly after he was kicked unconscious by unknown assailants has gone viral on the Internet this month.

"Sorry to show you this. It's the face of Homophobia," de Bruijn wrote above the image posted on his Facebook page on Sunday. It has been shared nearly 8,000 times since then.

De Bruijn, a Dutchman resident in Paris for a decade, told France Inter radio on Wednesday that he had "no doubt" that an assault on him and his boyfriend, who was punched in the face as they walked arm-in-arm, was a homophobic attack.

Gay rights issues have divided France in recent months as President Francois Hollande has pushed through a bill to legalize gay marriage despite angry street protests.

The law, backed by two in three people in surveys, is set to pass without major hitches in a parliament where Hollande's Socialists have a majority.

Yet a passionate debate, particularly on whether same-sex couples should have parenting rights, has triggered a surge in verbal and physical attacks on the gay community, according to records kept by the campaign group SOS Homophobie.

The group has recorded more than 60 reports of homophobic attacks, two to three times higher than normal, in the past week as the bill makes its final passage through the Senate.   Continued...