French Man Beaten in Alleged Anti-Gay Attack

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Wednesday April 24, 2013

A gay man was beaten unconscious in France's southern city of Nice, just days before the country's government voted to legalize gay marriage, the Local, an English-language French news website, reports.

Three men allegedly approached Raphael Leclerc and his boyfriend as they left a nightclub in the Mediterranean city of Nice, near the Italian border. The couple left the club around 5 a.m. on Saturday and Leclerc says he was kicked and punched by the men.

Leclerc's attackers referred to him and his boyfriend as being gay and asked if they were French or Chechen. Leclerc, a cabaret dancer, told them he is French but the men beat him until he lost consciousness.

"I left the nightclub with my boyfriend at around 5.35 a.m. on Saturday. We were not kissing and we were not holding hands," Leclerc, 24, said. "A couple of minutes later there were three , who were shouting "hey gays" at us, and then they ran at us."

The attack comes just days before France's government legalized same-sex marriage. The road to the legalization of gay marriage, however, has been tumultuous, as the debate has exposed France's deep social conservatism, causing tensions to be high among supporters and those who oppose marriage equality. Leading up to the final vote, where the Socialist-majority Assembly passed the measure by a 331-225 vote, France's citizens held violent protests against same-sex marriage.

Last month, the Associated Press reported that Paris' riot police had to fight back crowds who pushed their way onto Paris' landmark Champs-Elysses during another anti-gay marriage protest. AP also noted that police officers were prepared to fight violent backlash at France's National Assembly on Tuesday, after lawmakers voted to legalize gay marriage.

Some have suggested the protests are linked to recent gay bashings in France. Earlier this month, Wilfred de Bruijn and his partner, Oliver, said that they were brutally assaulted in Paris.

"Olivier and I were badly beaten up just for walking arm in arm," Bruijn wrote on Facebook. "I woke up in an ambulance covered in blood, missing a tooth and broken bones around the eye. I'm home now. Very sad. Olivier takes care of me. Forbidden to work for at least 10 days."

More recently, AP reported that four people were arrested on suspicion of carrying out an attack at a Lille gay bar while the Senate was debating the gay marriage bill.