French gay marriage plan revives gay rights debate
April 26, 2004
PARIS — Plans by a French mayor to celebrate a gay marriage in his town
hall next June, and the possibility it will be declared legally
void, have revived debate on the rights of homosexuals in France.
No�l Mam�re |
Photo - AFP
The ceremony "will take place in the conditions and with the
obligations of the civil code", Noel Mamere, mayor of the
southwestern town of Begles, near Bordeaux, and a Green member of
According to Mamere, Article 144 of the civil code does not
stipulate that marriage is prohibited between people of the same
"If this marriage is declared void, the case will be taken to
the European Court of Human Rights," he said. He argued that the
court "says very clearly that basic texts must adapt to the social
evolution of societies."
Mamere is backing same-sex marriages in the name of equal rights
and the struggle against discrimination as well as on legal grounds
and two other local politicians are ready to follow his example.
"People opposed to gay marriage are in general also against the
adoption of children by homosexual couples," said Communist
"Beyond this issue, which can seem secondary, we are defending
"Elsewhere, in Belgium, Quebec, soon Spain, Denmark, the
Netherlands, it has become a non-subject," said Christophe Girard,
a deputy to the Socialist mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe.
But Delanoe, himself a homosexual, argues that "we are not going
to settle the problem by organising three high-profile gay
As long as there is a "legal void" he will not become involved
and argues that marriage "is a little bit less urgent than the
question of parenting."
An association representing gays, lesbians, bisexuals and
transexuals, which organises gay pride activities, does not put the
call for gay marriage at the top of its list of demands.
"All debate is healthy," said spokesman Alain Piriou but
priority should go to cleaning up the law relating to
"On the ground people are suffering not because they cannot get
married but because of homophobia and the way they are viewed."
Jean-Luc Romero, a senior member of President Jacques Chirac's
Conservative UMP party and president of a homosexual defence group,
said Mamere's plan was a "political initiative" and believed that
an "illegal marriage" would damage the homosexual cause by sparking
In any case, he said, "the government has moved on these issues
and indeed in June new measures will be debated, in particular
punishing homophobic statements" and the creation of a high
authority on discrimination.
"French opinion is evolving but you won't move things forward by
Strong opposition has already been voiced to the idea of gay
marriage with Philippe de Villiers, head of the conservative and
traditionalist Movement for France, describing it as "a libertarian
provocation" and "a parody."
None of the articles in the civil code on "the qualities and
conditions necessary for the possibility of contracting a marriage"
or "the formalities relating to the celebration of marriage" or
"opposition to marriage" or "demands for nullification" stipulates
that the partners must be of different sexes.
But Article 75 of the code lays down that during the marriage
ceremony the presiding officer "shall receive from each party, one
after the other, the declaration that they wish to take each other
as man and wife."
Article 175-1 says the state prosecutor can register opposition
to a marriage before it takes place or demand that it be declared
Article 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights lays down
that "from the legal age of marriage men and women have the right
to marry and found a family in accordance with national laws
governing the exercise of this right."
Court judgements in 1986 and 1990 have interpreted this article
as referring to two people of different biological sexes. – Sapa-AFP
France close to first-ever gay marriage [23/04/04]