The most exciting part of Rafael Nadal winning the French Open championship on Sunday was that the delay caused by a fit, shirtless, masked man who jumped past security and ran around the tennis court with a flare in hand. That man is part of Hommen, the homoerotic anti-gay group in France, and they just might have their eye on making a bigger statement at the Tour de France.
If you've been following the gay rights movement in France, you might know that on April 23 the country voted to legalize same-sex marriage and the first ceremonies were conducted a month after on May 18, after a brief challenge. Since that April decision however, the country has been the site of some vocal and sometimes violent protests—a surprise to some who view the country and Paris as progressive. "Even the government confessed to being 'surprised by the virulence of the opposition' to the marriage and adoption law. A few months ago, no one would have predicted such a negative, nasty and damaging debate," The Guardian's Romain Burrell wrote.
And that sets the table for Hommen, whose slogan against gay marriage primarily focuses on children being adopted by gay parents: "Les femmes et les enfants d'abord. Non à la loi antiparité pour les enfants! Non à la filiation fiction!" or in English, roughly, "Women and children first. No unfair laws for children! No to fictional parentage!" The core protesters are men, and the group's signature are masks and being shirtless, like this protest in Lyon:
Or this demonstration in Nantes:
Or this one in Paris:
And most recently, the delay at Roland Garros: one protester made it on to the court, while demonstrations in some of the upper deck of Court Philippe Chatrier also delayed play.
That was a little bit scary. Since the stabbing of tennis great Monica Seles in 1993, security at tennis events has become very strict. Hommen and that protester got plenty of attention (though at the time no one was quite sure which organization he was a part of). And it seems like the group is relishing its French Open fame.
That said, eyes are now on the Tour de France, the 21-stage bike race (which Lance Armstrong never won) that criss-crosses the entire country, which is set to begin one June 29. Local reports say that an anti-gay protest is being worked out, and this Facebook page (with over 9,000 invitees and nearly 800 pledged attendees) is trying to get people to come out and hijack the tour's coverage to publicize their anti-gay views. The page reads (via rough Google Translate):
From June 29 to July 21, we will have incredible international visibility to show our fight against Taubira law and gender theory. The idea is certainly not to disturb the race, but to show our colors on French and foreign direct each step.
Bring flags, hoodies, polo shirts, whistles ... to make us seen and heard.
The Tour isn't like an enclosed arena like Stade Roland Garros, meaning there's more opportunity here for groups like Hommen to crash the race and gain more attention. Streakers have done so in the past. It seems like the perfect place for Hommen to pop up again, though the group has not (yet) announced its plans (but, announcing plans publicly might defeat the purpose as it would give security some kind of warning).
The timing of this all is a bit unfortunate. The Hommen protest at the French Open came days ahead of Russia's State Duma voting unanimously (434-0) to make "gay propaganda" illegal this week. That law looks like it will pass the country's upper legislative chambers, the AP reports. Gay propaganda, by Russia's terms, can be something as benign as letting a child know that gay people do in fact exist. And those these two anti-gay episodes come as cities the U.S. and around the world are kicking off Gay Pride Month.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.