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Protests and prayers as French Senate debates gay marriage

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Reuters/Christian Hartmann

Opponents of gay marriage demonstrated outside the French Senate on Thursday and Friday as the upper house debated the government’s gay marriage bill. Socialist senators predicted that the bill will pass, even though they have a narrow majority of just six.


“There are two solutions, the withdrawal of the law or its rejection [by the Senate],” declared protest leader Frigide Barjot – real name Virginie Tellenne – who last week predicted “civil war” if President François Hollande presses on with the “marriage for all” bill.

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About 3,000 people gathered outside the Senate on Thursday, chanting “The Senate with us!” and brandishing pink and blue flags, and many were expected to return on Friday.

In front of the Senate’s entrance about 100 supporters of the fundamentalist Catholic group Civitas knelt and prayed in the street, one, Jérôme, telling Le Point magazine that “France will deserve punishment if it authorises the marriage of sodomites.”

On Friday Socialist Senator Thani Mohamed Soilihi, who represents an overseas constituency in mainly-Muslim Mayotte, declared himself “astonished”, recalling that “prayers in the street are illegal”.

The ban “cannot just apply to Muslims”, he went on In a reference to the controversy about Islamic prayers in a Paris street in 2011.

Justice Minister Christiane Taubira defended the bill as an “act of equality” during Thursday’s debate and Socialist Senator David Assouline predicted it would be passed, possibly with some of his right-wing colleagues voting in favour or abstaining.

The right has tabled 280 amendments and four procedural motions, the first proposing a referendum on the question.

Former defence minister Gérard Longuet of the mainstream right UMP declared his opposition to adoption by same-sex couples.

“I’m completely convinced that marriage for homosexuals is a fraud for them,” he said, “because if one wants to build something that lasts and transmit life there is one condition that is necessary, heterosexuality.”

The bill has sparked massive demonstrations in Paris and elsewhere in France.