French government says anti-gay marriage violence must stop

Thu Apr 18, 2013 4:35pm EDT
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By Nicholas Vinocur

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Francois Hollande's government called on Thursday for an end to violent protests against a same-sex marriage bill being debated in parliament, warning those behind a rise in homophobic assaults would be punished.

Hollande's initiative to allow same-sex couples to tie the knot - the most significant social reform undertaken since France banned the death penalty in 1981 - has split the nation and sparked huge protests both for and against the law.

As the lower house of parliament prepares for a final vote on the law next week, the "anti" protests have turned violent and police have noted a rise in homophobic assaults.

In one such attack, a gay bar in the northern city of Lille was trashed on Wednesday night by four men shouting homophobic insults, leaving several people with injuries.

"I cannot accept ... homophobic acts and violence against property in the midst of protests, or any defiance of law enforcement officials," Hollande told reporters during a visit to Paris Charles de Gaulle airport.

"(Democratic) procedures must be respected, sensibilities must be respected, and everyone must be heard ... But the law and parliament also need to be respected," he added.

The four Lille assailants were detained by police after they smashed the bar's windows, hurled furniture and yelled insults, starting an altercation that left the assailants, the bar's owner and two bar tenders with light injuries.

The assault came days after the photograph of a gay man whose face was bruised and lacerated after a severe beating in Paris became a viral sensation on social media web sites.   Continued...

People wave blue, white and red flags as the take part in a protest demonstration against France's planned legalization of same-sex marriage in Paris, April 18, 2013. French deputies continue the second reading of a bill which would legalise gay marriage and give gay couples adoption rights. Sign reads, "President Francois Hollande clean your glasses. The country is in the street". REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes