Gay marriage

France awaits court ruling on gay marriage

The French constitutional court is to rule on gay marriage as an opinion poll suggests that a majority of French people are in favour.

Judges will consider a plea by lesbian couple Corinne Cestino and Sophie Hasslauer to be allowed to marry.

Activists hope France will join EU partners including Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands which have legalised same-sex marriage.

A poll of 950 people suggests that 58% of French people approve.

According to the TNS Sofres survey carried out for broadcaster Canal+, 35% oppose gay marriage.

Fifteen years together

Ms Cestino and Ms Hasslauer have lived together 15 years, are raising four children together, and already benefit from a French law recognising their partnership, but they cannot marry.

"It is not so much about getting married but about having the right to get married," Ms Cestino, a paediatrician, told the Associated Press news agency.

"So, that is what we are asking for: just to be able, like anyone else, to choose to get married or not."

At issue for the court, or Constitutional Council as it is formally known, are two articles in the civil code stipulating that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.

The couple's lawyer is hoping that the court will force the conservative government to sponsor a bill on gay marriage to send to parliament.

Risk of confusion

Act Up Paris, an advocacy group for both gay people and people with HIV/Aids, argues that if the court rules that the law is discriminatory, then mayors could start marrying gay couples right away - eliminating the need for a new law.

But that could make for confusion, with some mayors celebrating gay marriages and others refusing.

After a Green Party mayor in the south-western town of Begles officiated over a wedding of two gay men in 2004, France's highest court annulled the marriage.

Under their civil union, the lesbian couple have tax benefits and other financial advantages, their lawyer Emmanuel Ludot explained.

But marriage, he added, confers "the responsibility to help each other in times of sickness or financial difficulty, inheritance rights and the joint custody of goods - and that's without talking about the benefit for children, who are what we call 'legitimised by marriage'".

(Published by BBC - January 28, 2011)

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