If you’ve been worried about protesters arguing against gay marriage in the United States, you should hear about what’s been going on in France. Gay marriage in the country has been legal since May 18 of this year, and had a huge pride parade to celebrate a month later, but ever since its passage the country has had protesters demanding a change in some odd and scary ways.
After the ruling of the constitutionality of same-sex marriages, Paris saw protests flare up in its streets, some of which had to be broken apart by police forces.
The most violent anti-same-sex marriage group in France calls themselves “Hommen,” and they have been up to many things to protest within the country. Their main goals include “No to gay marriage” “Women and children first,” and “Protect kids.” The group’s main strategy for spreading their message has been to recruit young, good-looking men, put them in white masks, take away their shirts, and have them run around popular events in order to say that homosexuality is wrong. The color for the anti-same-sex marriage groups was chosen as bright pink and it is proudly displayed in the country as anti-gay. American news outlets have been happy to point out how against their own cause these groups seem to be.
Hommen is mirroring the appearance of Ukraine’s feminist group Femin which champions women’s rights worldwide. Their demonstrations involve going topless with political messages in public places, much like what Hommen has been doing. Except that is where the two groups diverge.
On June 9 members of the group protested at the French Open championship: two standing up and showing a banner that accused France of trampling on children’s rights, one lighting a flare and running onto the court, and ten others earlier in the day by trying to disrupt other matches. The protesters were turned over to and questioned by the police.
The group has recently been protesting the arrest of one of their members, Nicolas Bernard-Brusse, after he was caught by police after a protest in Paris. He was arrested along with 20 others by police after refusing to disperse from a demonstration, but he fled the scene, gave a false identity, and refused to submit to fingerprinting. Bernard-Brusse was the only one sentenced, with two months in prison with two months of suspension, the severity due to his challenging attitude toward magistrates as well as an earlier offense—for doing the same thing a month earlier. Hommen calls him a “political prisoner” and call for President François Hollande to release him from the “socialist dictatorship.” The group has also been calling for the removal of President Hollande, and actively demonstrates against him.
Unrelated to the group but kin to the movement, one man committed suicide in front of hundreds of tourists and worshippers at the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris as a protest against both immigration and the dissolution of the “traditional family.” Dominique Venner, 78 and a leader of the modern extreme right in France, left behind a note where he explained that, “I think I need to sacrifice myself to break the lethargy that overwhelms us… I give myself to death… I protest against fate,” “poisons of the soul,” and “individual pervasive desires that destroy our family identities and anchors.”
Most recently, during this month’s Tour de France, right-wing groups have been protesting at the bicycle race all across France. Calling themselves the “Tour of France for All,” families with banners of pink and blue have posted demonstrations on the sidelines throughout the country, showing pictures of a nuclear family—a mother, father, son, and daughter, all holding hands. The group has also scrawled messages on the roads in front of races. While they have threatened to disrupt the race with other means, thus far they’ve resorted to only demonstrating.
Setting the record straight on which side it is on, Paris on July 14 lit up the Eiffel Tower in rainbow colors to celebrate the passage of same-sex marriage during Bastille Day, France’s day of independence.
The problem with the protests is that over 60% of French people are in favor of gay marriage, according to a Guardian opinion poll, with numbers on the rise. The French far-right won’t be gaining any popularity by protesting at such beloved and national events, especially if they resort to violence and disrupt them. Hopefully French protesters can take a leaf out of those in the U.S. and just tweet or Facebook angry things about gay marriage like civilized people.