Court nullifies France's first gay marriage

July 28, 2004

Stephane Chapin and Bertrand Charpentier, with Noel Mamere
Photo - AFP
BORDEAUX — The first gay couple to be married in France vowed to fight a court decision that annulled their union and ruled that any redefinition of marriage should be taken up by lawmakers.

Stephane Chapin and Bertrand Charpentier, who exchanged vows on June 5, said Tuesday they would appeal the ruling to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary and were confident of eventual victory.

"We will win in the European Court, thus in France," Charpentier said. "We are sure that we will win because we'll take this as far as possible."

Their lawyer called the ruling "reactionary."

"The marriage is valid until at least the court of appeal rules," said attorney Emmanuel Pierrat.

But the court in southwestern Bordeaux said any redefinition of marriage "must be debated and requires the intervention of the legislature."

Chapin and Charpentier last month exchanged vows in a highly publicized ceremony in the Bordeaux suburb of Begles. The government immediately said the marriage was not legal.

The mayor who presided over the ceremony, Noel Mamere of the left-wing Greens Party, was stripped of his official duties for a month.

In its ruling, the court said that gay couples are already covered under the so-called PACs legislation that grants non-married cohabiting couples of the same or opposing sexes some of the rights enjoyed by married couples.

Currently, homosexual marriage is legal in at least five countries – the state of Massachusetts in the United States, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and Canada's three most populous provinces.

French leaders on both sides of the political aisle – ruling conservatives and opposition Socialists – have spoken out against legalizing same-sex marriages. However, the tide may be turning against the French ruling class.

Polls here suggest that a majority of the French would support gay marriage, and Spain's new Socialist leader, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero supports legalizing same-sex marriage. In a recent poll, two-thirds of Spaniards approved of same-sex marriage. – Sapa-AP

Related stories
French prosecutor seeks to have gay wedding declared null [14/06/04]



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