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Text by Tony Todd

Latest update : 2013-01-11

The leading figure in France’s anti-gay marriage movement, which hopes to get 200,000 demonstrators out on Sunday to protest the proposed “marriage for all” law, is an unlikely firebrand for the Catholic and right-wing dominated campaign.

The French anti-gay marriage movement has an unlikely figurehead in the form of a reactionary comedian who goes by the moniker “Frigide Barjot”.

The name – which translates as Frigid Loony – is a play on the name of Brigitte Bardot, the French actress better-known as a symbol of the 60s sexual revolution.

Barjot – real name, Virginie Tellene – is a born-again Catholic whose background belies her role as spokesperson for a movement that has bought a medley of conservative, far-right and Christian groups together to protest the Socialist government’s plans to allow same-sex couples to marry and access to fertility treatment.

Barjot and her supporters hope to get 200,000 out on the streets on Sunday for a France-wide demonstration against the Socialist government’s proposed “marriage for all” law.

Taking up the bizarre pen-name in the 80s as part of comedy and satire collective “Jalons”, Barjot became a household name for organising stunts poking fun at venerable French institutions.

Jalons’ debut “happening” was a protest against the cold during the freezing winter of 1984 at the aptly-named Paris metro station Glacière [meaning “freezer”], ironically blaming the French head of state for the weather conditions with the slogan: “Ice is a killer; Mitterrand its accomplice”.

Since then she has made her name as both a stand-up comedian and as a satirical writer.

Barjot refuses to be branded homophobic, citing her life-long attachment to her first boyfriend, who turned out to be gay, and “25 years working in gay nightclubs”.

“I do not deny gay love and I’ve got nothing against gay culture,” she told right-leaning daily Le Figaro for a portrait published on Friday. “But I cannot condone the introduction of a new type of marriage into France’s civil code.”

Barjot, who has described herself as “Jesus’ press officer”, says she was “struck in the heart” during a music concert at Notre Dame Cathedral in 1987 and has been an ardent Catholic ever since.

Since then she has been an increasingly active defender of the Catholic Church and its values.

In 2009 she set up the “hands off my Pope” movement in defence of Pope Benedict XI amid the scandal of former English bishop Richard Williamson, whose excommunication was lifted despite refusing to renounce views that “Jews are the enemy of Christ.”

According to the Figaro, Sunday’s anti-gay marriage outing will “write her into the history book of the French Catholic movement” – or not, if the event turns out to be a damp squib: "In an era when the church has not one single charismatic character to represent it, she will become either the ephemeral media image of this movement, or Saint Frigid.”

Tensions over same-sex marriage in France

Date created : 2013-01-11


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