Conservatives “are enraged by the contempt shown them by the French State”, says protest coordinator

Police in France on Monday arrested at least 67 persons opposed to same-sex marriage after demonstrations in several cities turned ugly and violent on Sunday. The French Parliament is examining a law permitting gay and lesbian couples to marry and to adopt children. This is one the most important social reform measures France is undertaking after it abolished the death penalty in 1981.

Fearing that the demonstrations by Catholic hardline groups could get out of hand, the government has decided to advance the date for adoption of the law, which has already been approved both by the National Assembly or the Lower House and the Senate. However, Senators tweaked the bill, introducing several minor amendments.

The Parliament will now have to give its final approval to the Bill before it becomes law. The vote will take place on April 23, several weeks ahead of the date initially signalled in the parliamentary calendar.

The protesters were arrested after they attempted to set up camp outside the Parliament building in Paris. Protesters also attempted to directly intercede with Interior Minister Manuel Valls after he had attended a concert in Paris on Sunday night.

When the law is passed, France will become the 12th country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage.

The protests are coordinated by a comedienne called Frigide Barjot, a pseudonym signifying Frigid and Nutty, who says French conservatives “are enraged by the contempt shown them by the French State”.

Indeed, last month, the movement — christened “demonstration for all”, as opposed to the Bill entitled “marriage for all” — gathered almost a million supporters across France.

“Since the government has chosen to ignore the opinion of such a large segment of the population, our actions are legitimate,” she told The Hindu in an interview.

The actions undertaken recently include destruction of public property; sit-ins outside some ministerial offices and Parliament; harassment of gay and lesbian celebrities; weekly demonstrations; and violent attacks against the government in the media.

On Saturday, Ms. Barjot had promised that “blood would flow” if the demonstrators were not heard by French lawmakers and the government. Opinion polls show that a large majority of the French population is not homophobic and supports these reforms.

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