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French MPs, media accused of playing down Orlando attack homophobia

A vigil in Paris for the victims of the Orlando massacre, 12 June 2016
A vigil in Paris for the victims of the Orlando massacre, 12 June 2016 Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt/AFP

French politicians from across the political spectrum have been reacting to the attack that killed 49 at a gay club in the United States. While not denying parallels with the November Paris attacks, LGBT groups say the homophobic nature of the shooting in Orlando, Florida, is being downplayed.

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“No one is talking about the homophobic nature of this attack,” Arnaud Gautier, of the umbrella group Inter-LGBT, told RFI.

“Every political leader has been on Facebook, Twitter, TV, radio, and only two called it a homophobic attack: the prime minister [Manuel Valls] and the Mayor of Paris [Anne Hidalgo].”

Most politicians expressed solidarity with the United States and denounced terrorism, some renewing calls for increased security in France as a result.

On Monday French President François Hollande, after tweeting a general message of solidarity with the American people on Sunday night, wrote that this was an attack on "the freedom to live one's sexual orientation and way of life".

Caroline Mecary, a Paris lawyer and LGBT-rights advocate, says not calling the Orlando massacre a homophobic attack amounts to homophobia.

“Yes, this was a terrorist attack, of course,” she told RFI. “But if you don’t say that it was at a gay bar – and a symbolic gay bar for LGBT rights in Orlando – you erase the homophobic dimension of this attack and it becomes a kind of unconscious homophobia. It’s a way of avoiding talking about homosexuality and it lessens the odious nature of the crime.”

Gay marriage opponents declare sympathy

The Manif pour tous, the organisation that led mass rallies against France’s gay marriage law in 2013, also tweeted sympathy for the Orlando victims, as did Christine Boutin, a politician and former minister, who was fined in 2015 for having called homosexuality an abomination.

Mecary was one of many to react negatively to these tweets, telling Boutin to keep her compassion to herself.

The Manif pour tous and Christine Boutin "spearheaded the idea of the inequality of rights,” Mecary said. “Those who say inequality of rights, say inferiority of homosexuals to heterosexuals. And that allows people who are weak to feel they can abuse and spit on homosexuals.”

Paris Gay Pride to go ahead

Despite concerns about homophobia and homophobic attacks, the organisers of Paris Gay Pride say that nothing will change.

“There is no way we’re going to stop marching for pride,” said one of them, Arnaud Gautier.

It was originally scheduled for 25 June but security officials asked for the march to be moved a week later, to 2 July, because the original date coincided with a Euro 2016 football game in Paris.

The Orlando massacre may mean even more security, but even so, Gautier says, the march will be held: “People ask us, 'Why are you still marching in 2016?' This is the answer. What happened [in Orlando] is the proof that we need to keep marching for our rights, against violence, against murder and for more equality.” 

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