First French gay marriage causes political uproar
Siegfried Mortkowitz | June 04, 2004
PARIS — The imminent first-ever marriage in France between two people of
the same sex has provoked a political war in this usually
Shortly before noon on Saturday, 34-year-old Stephane Chapin
will marry his companion, Bertrand Charpentier, 31, in the charming
town of Begles, near Bordeaux.
The marriage has so upset France's centre-right government that
both Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin and Justice Minister
Dominique Perben have threatened to remove from office Begles Mayor
Noel Mamere, who will perform the ceremony.
Saying that French law does "not permit nor authorise the
marriage of two people of the same sex", Raffarin threatened on
Wednesday that "any elected official who does not respect the law
in this context ... will incur the punishment prescribed by law".
On Thursday, Perben specified the punishment. If he goes ahead
with the marriage, Mamere will be liable to "legal or civil
penalties or administrative penalties, especially his suspension as
The 55-year-old Mamere, an outspoken member of the Green Party,
immediately characterized the government's threats against him as
"a load of hooey".
"It is not up to Monsieur Raffarin to say if I have respected
the law or not," he went on. "It is up to a judge after a debate
between opposing parties in front of a tribunal."
He then declared, "Of course, I will perform this marriage."
The debate about homosexual marriage has been raging in France
since April, when Mamere first announced that he would marry the
At the time, President Jacques Chirac interrupted a press
conference on the enlargement of the European Union to declare,
"The law ... does not permit marriages between two men or two
women. That's how it is, it is the law, and there is no question of
The issue is so sensitive here that it has divided even Mamere's
left-wing political allies, the Socialists.
As party leaders struggled to define a common position, they
were stunned by former prime minister Lionel Jospin, who declared,
"In principle and as an institution, marriage is the union of a man
and a woman."
This followed statements by two leading Socialist candidates for
the 2007 presidential elections, former prime minister Laurent
Fabius and former finance minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn, in
favour of homosexual marriage.
The issue has also split the French public, with only a small
majority in favour of gay marriages but a large majority speaking
out against the right of homosexuals to adopt children.
Lost in the political uproar is the couple itself. Chapin, a
nursing auxiliary, and Charpentier, a storekeeper, say all they
want is to be "a normal couple".
Overwhelmed by the uproar, they have nevertheless said that if
the state annulled Saturday's marriage, they were prepared to take
their case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights.
Asked why they wanted to get married, they replied, "Because we
love each other." – Sapa-dpa
French PM vows to punish mayor if gay marriage goes ahead [03/06/2004]