700,000 join Paris gay pride march led by mayor Mamere

June 24, 2004

Paris gay pride
Photo - AFP
PARIS — Noel Mamere, a politician who incurred the government's wrath by using his powers as mayor to marry two men, marched as a hero alongside up to 700,000 others in a gay pride parade in Paris Saturday bound to fuel one of hottest political subjects in France.

Mamere, a star of the gay marriage lobby, was suspended from his mayoral functions for one month – the maximum possible under the law – after he joined Stephane Chapin and Bertrand Charpentier in wedlock June 5 at his town hall in Begles, southwest France.

Mamere, a former television journalist turned politician for the environmentalist Greens party, was unrepentant. He told an enthusiastic rainbow-draped crowd he was "ready for more provocations". "I'm very proud of having started a debate in society, and of having had the courage to risk sanctions being taken against me," he said.

Also marching in the banner-flying parade to the Bastille square for a concert of house and techno music was the socialist mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, a supporter of legal change to allow gay marriages and one of the highest-profile openly homosexual politicians.

With him were two former socialist government ministers, Jack Lang and Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the latter a presidential hopeful, and several other well-known politicians, but no one prominent from the government.

About 80 organizations and many thousands – 500,000 by police count, 700,000 according to organizers – took part in the march to demand recognition of gay marriages and tougher government action against homophobic violence, following an attack last January against a 35-year-old man who was critically injured with third-degree burns.

Many of the people in the parade were dressed as brides and grooms ready to walk down the aisle. "We want to get married in Paris at the town hall, just like a normal couple – just ordinary," said Jacques Tautout, dressed in a bridal gown, who was accompanied by Herve Girard in a tail suit. "We demand the right to be ordinary."

Gays and lesbians in France can obtain many of the advantages available to couples by joining in legally sanctioned civil unions called PACS, but the gay lobby has argued the move stops short of full equality and discriminates against same-sex couples.

"We demand the same rights for homos as for heteros," proclaimed banners carried by many of the marchers.

"Our theme is,'enough hypocrisy, equality now'," said Alain Piriou, spokesman for a collective of associations representing gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transvestites.

Among the numerous drag queens dancing to deafening techno rhythms, was a transvestite who identified himself as Theo. Wearing fishnet tights, a leather mini-skirt and 50-centimeter (20-inch heels), he said he was hoping one day to become Marianne, the mythical representation of France that appears on postage stamps and statues in every town hall.

Past Mariannes have included actresses Brigitte Bardot and model Laetitia Casta.

"And now, why not a transvestite?" Theo asked. – AFP

Related stories
French cabinet approves bill outlawing homophobia [24/06/2004]



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