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June 6, 2004: Gay Marriage and Angry Conservatives (but not Bush this time!)

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France Holds First Gay Wedding, Despite Government Threat

Rebecca Harrison, Reuters, Saturday, June 05, 2004 - 9:49 AM ET




BEGLES, France - Two men exchanged marriage vows on Saturday in France's first gay wedding, hailed by supporters as a victory for human rights but swiftly denounced by the government as illegal.


The couple, one dressed in white and one in black, swapped rings, hugs and kisses at a ceremony in the town hall of Begles in southwestern France which prompted a rally of support by drag queens and a protest by conservatives.


Mayor Noel Mamere, who is leading an assault on traditional family values, defied Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin to wed the two men.  Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin announced the mayor would face legal action.


Mayor Noel Mamere is a member of the Green Party, wouldn’t you know.  Daniel Cohn-Bendit must be involved somehow.


  Blinking back tears, Mamere said he was not breaking the law and dismissed the government's threats against him.


But Villepin said Mamere could be suspended from office.


"He has broken the law and failed in his duty as mayor, despite the prime minister's solemn warning," he said, referring to a threat issued by Raffarin in parliament that any civil official presiding over a gay marriage would face censure.


Well, gay marriages have become a political issue in France what with month's European Parliament elections.  Opposition parties want a change in the law to let gay couples marry, Chirac's ruling conservatives say they would not get public support.


Is this a stunt?




A recent survey by Elle magazine showed 64 percent of French people were in favor of same-sex weddings, but the population is more divided when it comes to gay couples adopting children. The survey showed this was backed by 49 percent of respondents.


The existing laws?


It does seem French law already allows existing civil unions between gays, but like here, the gay community says this gives them a bad deal in terms of tax, inheritance and parenting rights.   Yeah, sounds familiar.


And Ric, Erickson, the de facto Paris correspondent for Just Above Sunset sends this dispatch:


France's first homosexual marriage was performed today in Bègles, near Bordeaux.  It was done by Bègles' mayor, Noël Mamère, a leading member of the Greens Party (Les Verts).  The event had 60 friends and family members present, 150 journalists, and a couple hundred pro and contra demonstrators.


The national prosecutor in Bordeaux has already said a case will be opened against the mayor for performing an illegal marriage.  The mayor risks a fine of 4.5 euros, plus another fine of 1500 euros.  He can also be stripped of his office, 'for administrative reasons.'  The mayor was elected by popular vote; the prosecutor was appointed by the Ministry of Justice in Paris.


The mayor has been under extreme pressure from the government, from the prime minister on down.  If the marriage is annulled by the French courts, the protagonists intend to take the matter to the European Human Rights Court.


This court has rendered judgments against the French state in the past.


The right-wing government is treating this issue as if the Republique were in grave danger.  Once again the government is misjudging popular sentiment - possibly total indifference - to make a major issue out of a minor molehill.


Doing it a week before important European elections is completely in keeping with the right-wing's notion of timing.  They have fallen in a 'green' trap.


The French aren’t much different from us, are they?


Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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