France has seen a marked uptick in anti-gay rhetoric and violence in the lead-up to today’s final vote on a new law permitting gay couples to marry in the country. The law passed only a few hours ago – I know we reported on it passing the other day, and that was the most crucial vote in question, the vote today was the final-final in a very long legislative process. Gay marriages will soon begin in France.
In the run-up to the vote today, two troubling hashtags have been trending on Twitter:
#MortAuxGay (death to gays)
#ilfauttuerleshomosexuels (we must kill all gays)
(UPDATE: France’s rightwing coalition of conservatives, the religious right, and the Catholic church went violent against yesterday, following final passage of the marriage law, attacking police with bottles and metal rods, and sending a letter with explosives to the president of the French Assembly (their version of the US House of Representatives).)
I just did a search on trending hashtags in France, and #MortAuxGay is still trending, though possibly because much of the French Internet is up in arms of the hate being directed against France’s gay community by religious extremists in that country, in tandem with the right-wing opposition (France’s version of the Republican party, for lack of a better comparison).
Sadly, France is finding itself confronting two equally disturbing trends.
First, an alliance between France’s religious right (mostly led by the Catholics) that’s in cahoots with the American religious right.
And second, an increased willingness by French conservatives to use violence to try to scare the current progressive government to back down, in the same way that American conservatives disrupted health care reform town meetings in order to scare Democrats, and effectively they did. The French right, including the top Catholic official in the country, seemed to give a nod of approval to anti-gay violence in that country.
Opposition leader, and comic, Frigide Barjot, promised a little over a week ago that the family values groups would spill blood if passage of the gay marriage law was expedited, as expected:
“Hollande veut du sang, il en aura ! Tout le monde est furieux. Nous vivons dans une dictature.”
“Hollande wants blood, and he’s going to get it. Everyone is furious. We live in a dictatorship.”
And the blood is already spilling. Wilfred de Bruijn and his boyfriend were brutally beaten in Paris recently go by several men shouting homophobic epithets, he say. The photos of his injuries, that he posted on Facebook, caused such a stir the French Interior Minister called Bruijn to express his personal shock.
And while Republicans in the US are more loathe to resort to violence than their French counterparts, the same strategy of acting crazy in order to scare the people in power, and scare the electorate into thinking the people in power are doing a bad job, is being employed by the right-wing opposition in the US and the right-wing opposition in France. It’s the tactics that differ, albeit slightly. It should be noted that gay marriage is rather popular in France, with 66% of French voters supporting the new law. So, when you don’t have the people on your side, all that’s left for you to do is go crazy and make it look like the people are on your side.
A third disturbing trend that France seems to have also borrowed from the American right is the tendency to use gay-bashing, be it legislative or the real thing, as a means of unifying the party and rallying the troops. This is slightly different than gay-bashing to scare the government. In this case, just as the American Republican did decades ago, the French right-wing is embracing a tolerance of intolerance, and a partnership with homophobes, in order to increase their electoral base, but just as importantly, provide bread and circus to their base.
Not surprisingly, France has seen an upswing in violent anti-gay hate crimes.
It’s widely known in France that the recent anti-gay protests in Paris, in which police were attacked by “family values” protesters doing fascist salutes, and children were used as human shields against tear gas, were not simply a response to the gay marriage legislation. Rather, the right saw the gay marriage debate as an opportunity to rally the entire rightwing in France – homophobes, white supremacists, and all – against the current left-wing administration of President Hollande.
This was much in the same way the Republican party in the US grabbed on to any issue they could in order to bash President Obama immediately after his election – from the stimulus to health care reform. As GOP minority leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, said early on, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”
And that’s what troubles with me, among other things, with what’s going on in France right now. I smell a Republican rat. Too much of what’s going on seems to be parroting what’s happening, and what’s happened, in the US – whether recently, or over the past forty years in the case of the the unholy matrimony between the GOP and the religious right.
If France wants to learn from America, it should learn from America’s mistakes. The Republican party knows it has a problem with a growing majority of the electorate, including women, gays, Latinos, African-Americans, and youth (among others). And a big part of the blame goes to the GOP tethering itself to social conservatives (that’s nice the word we use for religious right bigots). When you constantly resort to a strategy of demonization in order to win elections, at some point all the people you’ve demonize fight back. And when you’ve ticked off enough people, they’ll send your hateful ass out of office for good.
It’s a lesson French conservatives should take to heart.