France's Catholic church objects to proposed gay marriage

May 24, 2004

Archbishop Jean-Pierre Ricard
Photo - AFP
PARIS — The Roman Catholic Church stepped into the growing debate over gay marriage in France, voicing a strong objection in an article published Friday to a proposed summer wedding between two men.

"I must state my disagreement," Archbishop Jean-Pierre Ricard, president of the Conference of Bishops of France, wrote in two Catholic newspapers.

"Our society could not put the union of a man and women, which can lead to the birth of new human beings, on the same plane as two like beings, which cannot," Ricard wrote.

Marriage, Ricard, said, "assures the renewal of generations ... which is not the case of a union between persons of the same sex."

Green party lawmaker Noel Mamere has announced plans to perform France's first gay wedding on June 5, prompting fierce debate, a government denunciation and riveted media attention.

Mamere says he will perform the ceremony in the small southwest town of Begles, where he is mayor. In France, mayors perform civil marriage ceremonies - the only kind that is legally recognized.

Ricard, who is archbishop of Bordeaux, which is near Begles, published the article in "L'Aquitaine," a bimonthly regional journal of the Bordeaux diocese and in the national Catholic daily La Croix.

Ricard said the church objected to gay marriage – and gay adoption – not merely on religious grounds but as a means "to support the founding principles of social life itself."

"It must be said," Ricard wrote, that, "a child, born from the union of a man and a woman, needs a father and a mother."

Justice Minister Dominique Perben has said that gay marriage is illegal in France and the state will not recognize a homosexual wedding.

"This wedding will be purely and simply null and void, because it's against the law," Dominique Perben was quoted as telling Le Figaro newspaper last month.

France's civil code governing weddings specifically mentions "husband and wife" and to say otherwise is "a lie," Perben said, adding that Mamere risks sanctions if he goes ahead with the marriage.

A 1999 French law gave unmarried couples, including homosexual couples, extensive legal rights if they register their unions with the state. Called "PACS," it was pushed through by the former leftist government and created a fierce public debate in France, with opponents claiming it would undermine traditional family values. – Sapa-AP

Related stories
French opposition socialists rally behind gay marriage [12/05/2004]



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