Lawmaker sent letter with gunpowder ahead of vote


Tue, Apr 23, 2013 - Page 7

The speaker of France’s lower house yesterday received an envelope containing ammunition powder and a threatening letter exhorting him to delay an imminent vote on a gay marriage bill, aides said.

The threat comes as France’s parliament prepares to submit its final, decisive vote on the bill, which also allows adoption by gay couples, today amid huge tensions in the country between opponents and supporters.

The letter asks Claude Bartolone, the Socialist speaker of the National Assembly, to “delay the final vote” on the legislation that would allow same-sex marriage, which has triggered mass protests over recent months.

“Our methods are more radical and direct than the protests, you wanted war, you have it,” reads the end of the one-page, anonymous letter — just one of recent threats on pro-bill politicians.

Earlier this month, Senator Esther Benbassa said her car was trashed and that she had received threatening telephone calls, emails and letters.

Erwann Binet, a Socialist MP who supports the bill, has been forced to cancel planned debates for security reasons after being heckled by far-right militants, who have taken a front seat in the current furor over the bill.

Tens of thousands of opponents of the gay marriage bill marched in Paris on Sunday. Clutching French flags, dressed in pink and blue, the colors of the movement, carrying children or pushing buggies, protesters shouted slogans against French President Francois Hollande as they made their way through the city.

“We’ve been to all the protests,” said a 32-year-old mother who only gave her first name Camille.

“We’re here for children’s rights. We don’t want the state to be complicit in a child being deprived of a father or a mother,” she said.

The leader of the far-right “Nationalist Youths” group, Alexandre Gabriac, was among the marchers.

“We have about 50 nationalists in the protest,” said Gabriac, who last week was detained after clashes with security forces.

Police sources said officers had detained three protesters carrying tear gas canisters.

Paris police estimated the march attracted 45,000 people, while organizers said 270,000 turned out and the march passed off peacefully.

Polls regularly show that while a slim majority backs same-sex marriage, a similarly narrow majority opposes adoption by gay couples.

The bill is largely supported by the ruling Socialists, their allies in the Green Party and the Communists, and opposed by the main opposition UMP and other right-wing and center-right parties.