France’s Senate will this week to debate a draft law that would allow people convicted under anti-gay laws before 1982 to receive financial compensation.
Two French statutes, one establishing the age of consent for same-sex encounters and the other defining such relations as an aggravating factor in acts of ‘public outrage,’ resulted in thousands of sentences. These laws were in effect from 1942 to 1982.
Senator Hussein Bourgi of the Socialist party, the measure’s sponsor, stated that he wants the French government to acknowledge the role the state plays in discriminating against same-sex relationships. The bill will be discussed on Wednesday.
‘This draft law has symbolic value,’ he told reporters.
‘It aims to rectify an error that society committed at the time.’
The punishments meted out by the courts had ‘consequences that were much more serious than you might think today’, Bourgi said.
‘People were crushed. Some lost their jobs or had to leave town,’ he said.
Beyond the government’s recognition of wrongdoing, Bourgi said he also wanted an independent commission to manage financial compensation of 10,000 euros ($11,000) for each victim.
Antoine Idier, a sociologist and historian, called the initiative “salutary” but added that focusing on two laws of the period made it too restrictive.
‘Judges employed a much wider judicial arsenal to repress homosexuality,” he said, including laws that were not specifically aimed at same-sex relations but at “moral failings” or “inciting minors to commit depravity”.
Michel Chomarat, now 74, was arrested in 1977 during a police raid on a gay bar called “Le Manhattan”.
“Homophobia by the state consisted in hunting gays down everywhere,” he told AFP.
The bar was a private space with restricted access “but even so, police took us away in handcuffs and accused us of public moral outrage”, he said.
Chomarat said the draft law came “too late” because many people entitled to compensation had already died.
In an op-ed piece in LGBTQ+ magazine Tetu in June, activists, unionists and civil servants had already called for a recognition and rehabilitation of victims of anti-gay repression.