On April 23, France legalized gay marriage. The measure passed 331-224 in the Socialist Party majority Assembly. However, the bill came at the price of the signers’ safety. The day before the vote, Claude Bartolone, the head of France’s National Assembly, received an envelope sealed with gunpowder and a death-threat letter, signed by the right-wing group of France, Interaction des forces de l’ordre.
The letter read, “Allowing marriage for all would be the same as destroying all marriage … Our methods are more radical and direct than demonstrations. You wanted war, you’ve got it … If you were to carry on regardless, your political family will have to suffer physically.”
It is clear that conservative factions in France are willing to resort to violence in order to impede the struggle for gay rights. In light over the public debate, homophobic attacks in France have become more prevalent.
These events in France serve as a warning for America. Like France, our nation has a startling number of members in right-wing groups, such as the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and One Million Moms. These groups set up anti-gay demonstrations and fundraise to disseminate pamphlets and the word of God. However, they do not practice violence to make their point, which is a crucial and necessary distinction. Whether an activist identifies as a social liberal or a conservative, their method of protest should never be violence. But in France, Frigide Barjot, leader of the Manif Pour Tous (Demo For All), assured that President Hollande “wants blood, and he will get it.” Such militant rhetoric would have no place in America.
Recently, our Supreme Court has handled two high-profile cases regarding gay marriage: Hollingsworth vs. Perry, the case on Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative that defined marriage as being between a man and a woman, and United States vs. Windsor, the case on the Defense of Marriage Act, which denied same-sex couples the federal recognition and benefits afforded to heterosexual couples.
In both cases, arguments against gay marriage faltered. The results of the hearings will come in a month or so, but one can already speculate that Chief Justice Roberts would provide the final vote to strike down both Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act, not on the grounds of whether the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments should protect gays’ rights to marry, but on the grounds of federalism.
When that time comes, these opponents of gay marriage must act as civil Americans and not as the current radical French reactionaries. Protests that are peaceful are the messages most well-received by international communities. On the other hand, violent demonstrations would mar our nation’s image. As victories for gay rights advocates have proved to spark homophobia abroad, I hope that our reaction here at home will set an example for the rest of the world.