Unknown vandals in Paris, France splattered black paint and plastered homophobic signs over a memorial plaque dedicated to a gay couple burned in 1750 as capital punishment for the “crime” of sodomy. The couple was the last same-sex couple who faced federal execution just for being gay. A local LGBTQ activist group and the city’s mayor have both denounced the vandalism which occurred while the city hosted the 10th quadrennial Gay Games, an international queer sports competition.
The plaque for the gay couple burned in 1750 reads, “January 4, 1750. Montorgueil Street between Saint-Sauveur Street and the former Beaurepaire Street where Brune Lenoir and Jean Dio were arrested and sentenced for homosexuality. They were burned at the stake on July 6, 1750. This was the last execution for homosexuality in France.”
The homophobic signs that vandals placed on the plaque read, “To make a child I must be a man and not gay,” evidence of the homophobic unrest French citizens feel over same-sex adoption and child surrogacy. Homophobic attacks increased 15% between 2016 and 2017, says the local LGBTQ organization SOS Homophobie.
SOS Homophobie tweeted, “We condemn this intolerable homophobic act whose perpetrators must be punished. Let us all be united against hatred.” Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo retweeted the message.
Right now France is hosting the 10th quadrennial Gay Games, a 10-day event where thousands of international athletes come to compete in 36 different sports.
The story behind the plaque and the gay couple burned in 1750
Historians say 40-year-old deli worker Jean Diot and 23-year-old shoemaker Bruno Lenoir were witnessed “in an indecent posture in a reprehensible way” by a man named Jacques François Charpentier. Charpentier arrested and imprisoned them.
Diot and Lenoir denied the charges, claiming that Diot merely saw Lenoir sleeping in a doorway and tried to help him. However, since Diot couldn’t write, he couldn’t even sign the legal deposition against him.
The men had their personal belongings confiscated by the state, were fined 200 livres ($257.35 US) and then sentenced to death on April 11, 1750.
Nearly three months later, on July 6, 1750, they were burned at the stake, their ashes scattered into the wind. Historians think a wealthy person must’ve interceded on behalf of the gay couple because they were apparently strangled to death before being burned, sparing them a more painful death.
France eventually legalized homosexuality after the French Revolution in 1791. The plaque commemorating the gay couple burned in France was unveiled on Oct. 20, 2014.