Court annuls France'sfirst gay marriage

27th July 2004, Comments 0 comments

BORDEAUX, France, July 27 (AFP) - France's first gay marriage - performed last month in the southwest city of Bordeaux - was officially declared void by a court here Tuesday, but the two men involved immediately said they would appeal the ruling.

BORDEAUX, France, July 27 (AFP) - France's first gay marriage - performed last month in the southwest city of Bordeaux - was officially declared void by a court here Tuesday, but the two men involved immediately said they would appeal the ruling.

The judges sided with the conservative government by deciding that the June 5 wedding was not valid and declared "null" the marriage between shopkeeper Bertrand Charpentier, 31, and male nurse Stephane Chapin, 33.

"A difference of sexes is a condition of marriage under French law," the verdict read, rejecting the couple's argument that such a provision is not expressly spelt out in the relevant statute.

It explained that, in the view of the court, "the traditional function of marriage (is) commonly considered as constituting the foundation of a family."

Charpentier and Chapin vowed to appeal the ruling all the way to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.

"We will take this right to the end," Charpentier said after the Bordeaux court's verdict.

The couple's lawyer, Emmanuel Pierrat said: "We are going to appeal, and Bertrand and Stephane are staying married."

He added that "we are confident that the court of appeal or the court of cassation (higher appeals court) or the European Court of Human Rights will have a more progressive view of what makes a family."

The couple asserted that pending the outcome of the appeal, their marriage stood.

Chapin said he and his partner expected the Tuesday's ruling, but that "in any case, we're still married and we'll see what happens later."

The mayor of the Bordeaux suburb of Begles who officiated at the ceremony, Noel Mamere, who is also a leading member of the opposition Greens party, was suspended from his municipal post for a month for defying a government order to drop the wedding.

He, too, said he was not surprised by the ruling, but added: "The debate in society has taken place and I can only welcome that."

A hearing in the European Court of Human Rights would widen the issue, he said, "because the judges... would have to take into account the state of law in other countries of the (European) Union such as Belgium, Denmark, Sweden and Spain. Logically, they'd have to align themselves with those countries and therefore validate the marriage."

Charpentier and Chapin's union has already generated intense attention in France, where a civil contract known as PACS has since 1999 permitted couples, including same-sex ones, to attain some of the legal rights of marriage, but not others, notably those dealing with taxes and inheritance.

The issue was at the forefront of a Gay Pride march through Paris late last month, when some of the 500,000 participants dressed as brides and grooms to demand recognition of gay marriages.

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

Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said in a meeting with gay rights groups in June that he was considering setting up a commission to study marriage and adoption, but warned it would not lead to a reform of French institutions.

His government has taken steps in favour of gay people in other areas, notably by approving a parliamentary bill which would punish homophobic attacks or insults with jail time and a fine of up to EUR 45,000 (USD 54,000).

The bill, which puts sexist and anti-gay remarks on the same criminal level as words encouraging racism or anti-Semitism, was conceived in the wake of a vicious attack on a homosexual man who was badly burned earlier this year.

© AFP

Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article