Minister declares planned first French gay marriage 'null'

April 29, 2004

Justice Minister Dominique Perben
Photo - AFP
PARIS — A planned wedding billed to be France's first gay marriage would be null and void if it goes ahead, Justice Minister Dominique Perben said Wednesday in a move that could trigger an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

"This marriage will be entirely and simply null, since it is contrary to the state of law," Perben told the French daily Le Figaro in reference to the wedding announced last week by a leading opposition politician.

Noel Mamere, a parliamentary deputy with the Greens Party and a mayor of a southwestern town near Bordeaux, said he would celebrate the same-sex union between two men on June 5 in support of equal rights in France.

He has said that nothing in the French statutes specifies that marriages have to be exclusively between a man and a woman, and has threatened to take any challenge to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.

But Perben said public prosecutors would seek to have the marriage blocked before the ceremony or annulled afterward.

"To argue that sexual difference between spouses is not written into the civil code is to lie," Perben said.

He cited a law that that says a public official celebrating a wedding hears from "the two parties, one after the other, the declaration that they want to take each other for husband and wife".

He also argued that the European Convention on Human Rights defined marriage as a union of a man and a woman.

Perben said Mamere, who was a former presidential candidate, "has the obligation to uphold and respect the law, not to promote his own opinions".

The deputy and mayor risked legal action if he pushed on with the wedding, the minister said.

"I think it would be very wise if he changed his mind before then. Everyone, himself included, knows that his method would go against the law," Perben said.

Although the Netherlands and Belgium are the only European countries to legalize homosexual civil marriage, France and several other states allow civil unions for heterosexual and homosexual couples.

France's Civil Solidarity Pact (known as PACS) was introduced in 1999 and gives all adult couples, including homosexual ones, many of the same fiscal and social rights as married partners.

Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin is expected to back Perben's view on same-sex marriages on Thursday, in a speech commemorating the bicentenary of the French civil code. – Sapa-AFP

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French gay marriage plan revives gay rights debate [26/04/2004]



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