France’s Senate is set to deliberate on a proposed law this week that would provide financial compensation to individuals convicted under anti-gay laws before 1982. The legislation targets thousands of people sentenced under two French laws in effect between 1942 and 1982, which set the age of consent for same-sex relations and identified such relations as an aggravating factor in acts of “public outrage.”
Senator Hussein Bourgi of the Socialist party, the bill’s sponsor, emphasized the symbolic value of the draft law, seeking the acknowledgment of the state’s historical role in discriminating against individuals engaged in same-sex relations. Bourgi aims to rectify past societal errors and address the severe consequences faced by those who were convicted, such as job loss and displacement.
Beyond governmental recognition, the proposed legislation calls for the establishment of an independent commission to oversee financial compensation of €10,000 ($11,000) for each victim. While the initiative is considered salutary, some, including sociologist and historian Antoine Idier, argue that focusing solely on two laws is too restrictive, as judges employed a broader judicial arsenal to repress homosexuality during that period.
Michel Chomarat, who experienced the state’s homophobia in 1977, expressed that the draft law comes too late for many entitled to compensation who have already passed away. Activists had previously called for the recognition and rehabilitation of victims of anti-gay repression, emphasizing the role of past state laws, rules, and practices in legitimizing discrimination.
For the proposed law to take effect, both the Senate and the National Assembly must vote in favor. Similar initiatives in Germany and Austria, which aimed to rehabilitate and compensate individuals convicted based on historical anti-gay laws, serve as precedents for France’s current efforts to address historical injustices against the LGBTQ+ community.