France officially recognises 1st gay family

September 23, 2004

PARIS — France has for the first time extended official recognition to a family headed by a homosexual couple, giving legal rights to two lesbians raising three daughters one of them bore through artificial insemination, Le Monde newspaper reported.

The authorisation, given by a Paris judge on July 2, sets a precedent in a country which is still grappling with a marriage of two gay men in June that the government has declared annulled.

According to Thursday's edition of Le Monde, the lesbian couple, identified only as Carla and Marie-Laure, and their three children, aged 5, 7 and 10, received permission to establish "a legal link between each of the parents and the children as well as joint exercise of parental authority".

Their lawyer, Caroline Mecary, told AFP that the decision – delivered after four years of legal efforts – now allows the couple to carry out their family duties like any other heterosexual couple in France.

She noted however that the move was considered "exceptional" and was only achieved after a long procedure that involved Carla winning adoption rights over the children born to Maire-Laure, then converting that to shared custody.

Carla, a 46-year-old photographer, and Marie-Laure, a 45-year-old graphic artist, decided to go ahead with founding a family after living together for 15 years.

"Really, everything went very well and the relationship formed naturally with the children," Carla told Le Monde, adding that "we had a little party" when the news came through of the judge's decision.

With no appeal forthcoming from state prosecutors within the statutory period, the verdict took legal effect in mid-August.

The couple's legal victory was likely to encourage other homosexual couples to follow suit, though Le Monde stressed that only Paris and one other region in France, the Herault, allow adoption by openly gay single people.

Single women are also barred from receiving artificial insemination in France, although the procedure is open to them in other European countries. The option of surrogate mothers for men remains largely a situation found in North America.

The issue of gay unions and civil rights in France took on a new dimension on June 5 this year when two gay men, shopkeeper Bertrand Charpentier, 31, and male nurse Stephane Chapin, 33, became the country's first married couple.

The government declared the marriage void on July 27, but the two have mounted an appeal they have vowed to take to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.

Since 1999, France has offered a civil contract known as PACS to all couples, including same-sex ones, but it stops short of offering the same legal rights as marriage, notably in the areas dealing with taxes, inheritance and children.

Although homosexual partnerships are recognised to varying degrees in several other European countries, Belgium and the Netherlands are the only two EU members so far that recognise same-sex marriages. – Sapa-AFP

Related stories
Court nullifies France's first gay marriage [28/07/2004]



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