French PM vows to punish mayor if gay marriage goes ahead

June 03, 2004

PARIS — Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin vowed Wednesday to punish a mayor who plans to preside over France's first gay marriage this coming weekend, and said the union would be considered invalid.

Noel Mamere, a mayor in the Begles suburb of the southwestern city of Bordeaux who is also a leading figure in the opposition Greens party and a former television presenter, has said he will celebrate a marriage between two men, a shopworker and a nurse, on Saturday.

Justice officials have already warned Mamere he would be violating the law, which they insist enshrines the idea of a marriage only being between a man and a woman.

Raffarin's declaration, made before a parliamentary legal commission, underlined that position.

French law, he said, "neither allows nor authorises marriage between two people of the same sex".

"If such a ceremony takes place, it cannot be called a marriage. It would be an illegal ceremony, null and void under the law," he said.

"My reply is crystal clear: any elected official who does not respect the law in this matter... will be exposed to the sanctions provided for by law."

Mamere has said he would see the ceremony through. Last week, he posted the bans announcing the wedding of the men, Jean-Luc Charpentier and Stephane Chapin, both of whom have temporarily left Begles because of the intense media attention.

The couple have said they will take their case to the European Court of Human Rights if the marriage is rendered void.

President Jacques Chirac has joined Raffarin in opposing gay weddings, and has instead proposed further strengthening a French civil contract known as the PACS which was introduced in 1998 to give more rights to cohabiting couples, regardless of their sexes. – Sapa-AFP /

Related stories
French gay marriage row intensifies [28/05/2004]



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