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As France Prepares for Marriage Equality, Opponents Warn of Civil Strife

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For the past several months, equal marriage supporters around the world have watched with excitement as a marriage and adoption equality bill winds its way through France's parliament. The French people strongly endorse same-sex marriage, and support for the right of married gay and lesbian couples to jointly adopt children sits just shy of 50 percent.

France's Senate voted Friday to approve the landmark bill, but because it made minor changes to the adoption portion, the National Assembly must vote to approve the measure one more time before President François Hollande can sign it into law, which he has promised to do. Also on Friday, Hollande's Socialist Party announced that the final vote -- originally scheduled for May 20 -- would instead be held the following Wednesday, April 17, keeping marriage and adoption equality on track to become law in France by summer.

But the push for equality has an ugly underbelly: hundreds of thousands of anti-equality protesters have marched through the streets of Paris, the nation's Catholic bishops have denounced the proposed law, and the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), a U.S.-based anti-gay organization, has taken a leading role in organizing the opposition, which consists mostly of Roman Catholics and conservatives. And as the marriage equality bill moves closer to passage, brutal and bloody attacks on LGBT people have surged: the head of a French anti-homophobia organization told Raw Story this week that reports of anti-gay assaults in the first two months of 2013 were up by 200 percent.

When Hollande's government announced the fast-tracked final vote on Friday, several proponents of marriage discrimination responded with disturbing and violent threats. Frigide Barjot, leader of "mainstream" anti-equality group Manif pour tous, vowed, "Hollande wants blood, and he will get it."

The threat marks a stark reversal from statements Barjot made just two days prior, when she claimed in the wake of a particularly savage anti-gay hate crime that her side "[denounces] violence."

Christian Jacob, a deputy from the right-wing UMP party, echoed Barjot's inflammatory words, warning that by speeding up the bill's near-certain passage, Hollande "is risking a violent confrontation with the French people." Fellow UMP parliamentarian Hervé Mariton added that the move was "an incitement to civil war."

France's gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community will find out in a matter of days whether these homophobes intend to make good on their chilling promises.

I wonder, do the French Catholic bishops and NOM -- responsible for stirring up much of this anti-gay fervor -- endorse their allies' vulgar threats and violent attacks? If not, the clock is running out for both groups to issue a forceful and unequivocal condemnation.

In the meantime, their silence speaks volumes.

Also published on my blog, johnmbecker.com.