French gay marriage row intensifies
May 28, 2004
BORDEAUX France — The row over France's first gay marriage intensified Thursday
after the state prosecutor in the southwestern city of Bordeaux
said the ceremony which is due on June 5 will be illegal.
Bertrand de Loze gave formal notice that the marriage will be
declared null and void a day after the bans for the wedding of
shopworker Jean-Luc Charpentier and nurse Stephane Chapin were
posted at the townhall of the suburb of Begles.
The mayor of Begles, Green party deputy and former television
presenter Noel Mamere, stirred up nationwide debate last month when
he declared his intention to celebrate the country's first
homosexual marriage – forcing politicians and religious leaders to
formulate a response.
Loze sent a fax to Mamere warning that "as a functionary of the
civil state, you are forbidden to celebrate the marriage which has
been announced.... It is important that as a person in whom public
authority is vested you abstain from any initiative that will lead
to a breach of the law."
However Mamere insisted Thursday that he would see his plans
through to their conclusion. "The initiative is a political one,"
he said, arguing that the law needed to change to take account of
society's growing demands for equality.
The prosecutor took his cue from Dominique Perben, justice
minister in the centre-right government, who has said that French
law required officiating mayors to verify that couples to be
married were indeed a man and a woman.
"Any official who carried out a homosexual marriage would be
committing a fault, an irregularity. The marriage would be
invalid," Perben said.
Mamere has been attacked by conservative politicians for seeking
to stage a publicity coup, and his initiative has divided the left
– with Socialist party leader Francois Hollande supporting plans
to legalise gay marriage but former prime minister Lionel Jospin
coming out strongly opposed.
President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin
both said they are against gay weddings, but instead proposed
further strengthening the civil contract known as the PACS which
was introduced in 1998 to give more rights to cohabiting couples.
One of the arguments used by Chirac's party the Union for a
Popular Movement against Mamere's initiative is that when the
Socialists introduced the PACS against strong oppposition from
pro-family groups they argued that it would obviate calls for
full-scale gay marriage.
The president of the French conference of bishops Jean-Pierre
Ricard said that homosexual unions could not be equated with those
between a man and a woman because they were devoid of any notion of
"If our society gives so much importance to marriage between man
and woman, it is not just to recognise the constitution of a
couple... but because marriage also ensures the renewal of
generations," he wrote in a diocesan magazine.
Jean-Luc Charpentier and Stephane Chapin have left Begles because of the media
attention, and are staying with a friend in Marseille. They told a
local newspaper Thursday they were not surprised by the
prosecutor's decision and were determined to proceed with the
The pair have said they will take their case to the European
Court of Human Rights if the marriage is rendered void.
The mayor of the town of Marseille near the Mediterranean coast
has said he will celebrate a gay marriage on June 19, Liberation
newspaper reported Thursday, and a handful of other mayors have
declared themselves willing in principle. – Sapa-AFP
French prosecutor moves to block gay marriage [27/05/2004]