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Opponents of gay marriage make cents of Paris mayor's demand

February 26, 2013|By Kim Willsher
  • People take part in a protest against same-sex marriage in Paris on Jan. 13
People take part in a protest against same-sex marriage in Paris on Jan.… (Thomas Coes / Agence France-Presse…)

PARIS -- The mayor of Paris has been deluged with checks for just a few cents each after complaining about damage that protesters opposed to a law legalizing same-sex marriage did to one of the French capital's most exclusive parks.

Demonstrators opposed to "marriage for all" legislation must have guessed the chaos they would cause when they sent donations of just 10 cents to help settle the $132,000 bill for repairs to the lawns of the Champ-de-Mars near the Eiffel Tower.

In fact, their petty cash protest looks set to cost Parisian taxpayers even more money, after Mayor Bertrand Delanoe revealed it could cost more to issue receipts for the money than the amount of cash he had received.

Opponents of the gay marriage bill passed by the lower House of Parliament on Feb. 2 had gathered on the Champ-de-Mars on Jan. 13 in a demonstration that saw about 350,000 protesters trampleĀ  lawns that were closed off to the public and "resting" for the winter.

Delanoe, who is gay, said protesters had damaged more than 4,000 square yards of grass and sent the bill to the demonstration organizers.

"Those are the rules," Delanoe said, adding that it was "normal and legitimate" to ask for the "collective" that organized the protest to pay up. He said he had presented bills to French rock star Johnny Hallyday in 2009 and to the group SOS Racism in 2011 after fans and supporters caused similar damage in the city.

In response, organizers urged supporters to send checks for between 10 cents and 1 euro, or about $1.30, to City Hall. When 9,000 people did, raising $1,175, Delanoe admitted the donations were literally more trouble than they were worth.

He told French radio he did not know what to do with the money as he was obliged to issue a receipt for each check. Apart from the cost of staff labor and envelopes he added: "It's going to cost me more in postage than I've received."

Officials say the Champ-de-Mars lawns, normally reopened after a winter rest in April, will remain closed off to the public until June.

The same-sex marriage bill will be voted on by the upper house of Parliament on April 2.

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