The French Battle Over Gay Marriage

Over in France, the legislature is getting ready to legalize same-sex marriage and huge crowds of hardcore practicing Catholics are marching in protest, egged on by the whole Catholic hierarchy from insignificant local priests to the pope in Rome, who apparently ordered the faithful to man the ramparts. Get out the boiling oil. Attack the disgusting sodomizing dogs before it's too late.

And the local priests who usually mind their own business are running off at the mouth. A priest responsible for the Catholic community in Strasbourg told his flock legalizing same-sex marriage would pave the way for incest, polygamy, murder, not to mention slavery, making France worse under the queers than under the Nazis.

The ridiculous rhetoric repeated around the country would almost be funny if it didn't spark real violence.

Unlike earlier peaceful marches, on November 18, a largely male crowd of anti-gay protesters from the militant, extremist group Civitas attacked counterdemonstrators, especially women and queers, as well as journalists who haven't exactly applauded their efforts.

Some of their first victims were members of the Ukrainian feminist group FEMEN. These small brave women turned up to counter-demonstrate with their bare chests scrawled with slogans like “In gay we trust,” little shorts, and those things on their heads that nuns wear. After trying to confront the crowd, they were chased down and beaten up.

You can see them on video. They look so little, scrawny, and righteous compared to the enormous right-wing nationalist Catholic guys in leather jackets who punched them or smashed them in their faces with motorcycle helmets. All to a Wagnerian chorus of “sluts” and “filthy dykes.” There was even a priest on the sideline encouraging the attackers to go after FEMEN. “Allez montrer votre virilité!”… “Go on, show them you're men!”

These thugs hit the trifecta of their female, queer, media-bashing frenzy when they attacked one particular reporter. When they smashed her head on the pavement and her cap fell off, they recognized her as Caroline Fourest, journalist dyke and “filthy whore” responsible in the last couple of years for uncovering the growing power of fundamentalist Catholics and some of the anti-gay, anti-woman shenanigans they've pulled under the radar of the secular state.

Caroline Fourest.

They shouldn't take it personally. She's gone after the homophobia and misogyny of Muslims, too, getting pilloried as a racist and collecting death threats for exposing the likes of Tariq Ramadan as a stealthy huckster televangelist who collected fat fees as multicultural expert and moderate Muslim while playing footsies under the table with the fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) in Algeria, not to mention the Iranian state.

I like Fourest a lot. I always do like secularists when they're even-handed, going after nice white French Catholic reactionary pigs the same as beige North African Muslims bigots. Fundamentalist Jews have taken their lumps from her, too.

Her work is essential. Keeping religion out of government is our only chance as queers to get basic civil rights. Argue interpretation all you want, you just can't deny the fact that it's written down, right there, in almost every “holy” book that queers deserve the absolute worst in this world, not to mention the next. Treat queers like anybody else, they might actually begin to believe they're your equals. My god, you can't be too careful about the perils of democracy.

Caroline Fourest's a case in point. What kind of normal woman could survive blows to her head and back, then announce on Facebook, “Plainte déposée! Ce soir, c'est sac de glaces et doliprane. Merci à tous pour vos messages de soutien. Les chiens aboient… l'égalité passera.”… “The complaint is filed. Tonight, it's an icepack and Advil. Thanks to everybody for their support. The dogs howl, but equality will pass.”

I hope so. Will Francois Hollande's new Socialist government hold their ground? Weather the controversy? Manage to mobilize supporters for same-sex marriage, a group that is supposed to include more than half the population (at least before the latest round of demos)? Hollande might be tempted to hide. He's pretty much known as a cream puff. And not because he has a tasty center.

Same-sex marriage is quite a test for France's secular state. Religion and race are increasingly tangled there. In part because governments of both the right and left have historically preferred to buy off cries of racism from, say, Muslims with religious crumbs rather than address real problems. Want special hours in the pool? Okay. Special treatment in hospitals? No problem. See, we take care of our own. Muslims, particularly immigrants, get anything but opportunities for full integration and equality, which would mean offering the rights and demanding the responsibilities that come with citizenship in a secular state.

That trick will be harder and harder to pull off. Especially now when priests are holding joint press conferences with rabbis and imams, uniting extremist elements of their communities in hatred of queers.