40 years ago, France abandoned anti

“Acts against nature” or “public contempt of decency”: until 1982, thousands of people, the vast majority of men, were sentenced in France, a form of “State homophobia” repealed there 40 years and some of whose victims are now waiting to be “rehabilitated”.

On July 27, 1982, the National Assembly repealed a law dating back to the authoritarian Vichy regime, set up during the Second World War, which penalized “acts against nature” with minors.

A year and a half earlier, in December 1980, the deputies had canceled a 1960 amendment which considered homosexuality as a “social evil” and increased, for gays, the penalties incurred for “public indecency”.

For a long time, the repression had been based on the idea that “there would be a form of homosexual threat, of individuals ready to corrupt the youth”, and the police were instructed “to stop and specifically control the establishments homosexuals or places of meetings and flirting in the open air”, recalls the sociologist and historian Antoine Idier, author of “The paragraphs in the closet – The abrogation of the crime of homosexuality”.

Between 1942 and 1982, more than 10,000 people were sentenced for homosexual acts, estimates Régis Schlagdenhauffen, lecturer at the School of Advanced Studies in Social Sciences (EHESS).

But “multiple sub-articles of the law targeted homosexual persons,” he adds, citing public outrage against homosexual indecent exposure. “If we were to encompass everything, no one would be able to give an exact number of convictions related to homosexuality,” he believes.

This repression, “I lived it, it was extremely traumatic”, remembers Jean-Luc Romero-Michel, deputy mayor of Paris in charge of the fight against discrimination. In the early 1980s, “I was 21 or 22, and it was one of the first times I went to a nightclub,” continues the sixty-something.

“I had only been there ten minutes when all the lights came on: police raid! They check your papers, they pin you against the walls… For me, who was already having trouble coping, it was enough violent,” he says.

One of these police raids, in the gay bar “Le Manhattan” in Paris, had particularly been talked about in May 1977: nine men had been arrested, then prosecuted in court, during a highly publicized trial, because their antics in this nocturnal place constituted in the eyes of the law a “public indecency”.

The entrance to the bar was however filtered, and “there were only adults having fun with each other. It was a police provocation, due to political homophobia at the highest level”, protests Michel Chomarat , 73, one of the nine arrested that evening, sentenced to a fine of 500 francs for these facts.

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For many men arrested under these conditions, “the consequences were much more serious than a simple fine”, underlines the activist: “at the time, homosexuals had more or less hidden lives, and there their homosexuality burst into the open. day. It could have led to suicides”.

“It was from there that I became a gay activist. It revolted me. It’s something that is in me and that I will not let go,” says Mr. Chomarat, who with dozens of activists, elected officials and organizations, signed in June in the magazine Têtu, an appeal to the State to rehabilitate, “even compensate” the “victims of its anti-gay repression”.

“A whole generation of LGBTQI+ people (…) lived in fear, under the threat of the homophobic law”, constituting a “sword of Damocles”, underlines the text of this forum.

Immediately after decriminalization, however, the gay and lesbian community hardly had time to enjoy a form of recklessness: “the repeal happened when we were almost already in the next subject, AIDS “, underlines Denis Quinqueton, co-director of the LGBTI+ Observatory of the Jean-Jaurès Foundation. So much so that this story remains little known to the younger generations.

For today’s LGBT activists who are interested in this period, 1982 is nevertheless “a pivotal date, which put an end to a form of state homophobia”, which “legitimized” hatred or violence against homosexuals, underlines the former president of SOS Homophobia Joël Deumier.

And it was only after decriminalization that the next stage could begin: the conquest of equal rights, which later led to the Civil Solidarity Pact (Pacs) – a contract between two people of different sexes. or of the same sex wishing to organize their life together -, to “marriage for all”, then to medically assisted procreation (PMA) in particular for female couples.

40 years ago, France abandoned anti-gay repression