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French Minister Resigns Rather Than Stamp Draconian Anti-Terror Law

Draconian constitutional changes included stripping convicted terrorists of their French nationality

Christiane Taubira was known as a rare voice of compassion in French government. (Photo: AFP)

French justice minister Christiane Taubira, seen by many as a rare voice of compassion for marginalized communities, resigned unexpectedly on Wednesday over President François Hollande's controversial anti-terror proposals, saying, "Sometimes to resist means leaving."

"I left the government over a major political disagreement," Taubira told the BBC.  "I am choosing to be true to myself, to my commitments, my battles and my relationships with other people."

Taubira, whose role in the cabinet included stamping the seal of France onto new laws and policies, was seen as a champion of civil rights, arguably best known for introducing the country's same-sex marriage law in 2013. As France 24's Douglas Herbert wrote on Wednesday, her convictions raised her profile among an increasingly divided political sector, often making her a target of racial slurs from the country's rightwing faction.

But the breaking point seemed to be Hollande's recent proposal to strip convicted terrorists of their citizenship if they held dual nationalities. Taubira and other critics on the left said that measure—which the government has stated would be purely symbolic—could serve to further divide French society and perpetuate dangerous "purity" propaganda.

The Guardian's Angelique Chrisafis explains:

[Taubira] had insisted she would stay in government despite opposing the measure, but tension was rising because she would be expected to defend the bill in parliament, despite being publicly fervently opposed to it.

On Wednesday morning, just as parliament prepared to open its first debate on the constitutional changes, Taubira met Hollande and Valls at the Élysée Palace for a meeting that was described as “warm”. Hollande’s presidential office swiftly issued a statement saying Taubira had resigned.

"The terrorist threat we are facing is serious," Taubira told reporters. "But I think we should not grant it any victory, whether military, diplomatic, political or symbolic."

Immediately after the news became public, Taubira tweeted, "Sometimes to resist means staying, sometimes to resist means leaving."

By contrast, Taubira's replacement, Jean-Jacques Urvoas, a member of parliament from Brittany, has been assisting Hollande in crafting his constitutional changes.

Also Wednesday, France's top administrative court upheld the state of emergency implemented in November, following the attacks in Paris that killed 130 people, which allows police to conduct unwarranted raids and crack down on demonstrations. The Council of State rejected an appeal by the League for Human Rights, filed last week, that sought to suspend the three-month order.

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