Hollande Signs French Gay Marriage Law

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PARIS -- The rush toward France's first same-sex marriage officially began Saturday morning, after President François Hollande signed the country's "marriage for all" act into law.

The mayor of the southern city of Montpellier, sometimes called "the French San Francisco," intends to officiate at the first gay wedding, which is likely to be no sooner than May 29, because by French law an application for a marriage must be filed at City Hall 10 days before the ceremony itself.

"Love has won out over hate," the mayor, Hélène Mandroux, a Socialist like Mr. Hollande, said Saturday. She has been pressing for a gay marriage law since 2009, while voicing concerns that the first such wedding could attract violent protests along with the inevitable and engineered publicity.

The government's spokeswoman and minister for the rights of women, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, intends to attend.

One couple seeking to be the first to wed under the new law is Vincent Autin, 40, the president of Lesbian and Gay Pride Montpellier, and his partner of seven years, Bruno, 30. Bruno prefers not to provide his surname because he works for the state, though the couple has been featured on television, in newspapers and magazines.

France is the 14th country to legalize gay marriage. In the United States, Washington, D.C., and 12 states have legalized same-sex marriage.

For Mr. Hollande, who is riding low in the opinion polls, the passage of the law over considerable public opposition was a significant victory, given his campaign promise to legalize gay marriage within the first year of his administration (Saturday was within days of his May 15 anniversary in office).

But considering the opposition and significant economic problems in France, now in a triple-dip recession, Mr. Hollande also wants to move on to other important and controversial changes in the structure of the French economy, including pension changes and spending cuts.

Mr. Hollande signed the bill a day after the Constitutional Council dismissed a legal challenge by the right-wing opposition. "I will ensure that the law applies across the whole territory, in full, and I will not accept any disruption of these marriages," he said.

Gay rights advocates praised the law, while a watchdog group, SOS Homophobie, said that France "has taken a great step forward today, although it is regrettable that it was taken in a climate of bad faith and homophobic violence."

Protests against the law, led by religious leaders and conservative groups, drew hundreds of thousands of people at their height, with scattered violence on the margins. Opponents of the measures have vowed to fight on, having already called another protest for May 26. There was a small protest Friday night near the historic Pantheon, in the Latin Quarter.

The law allows all married couples to adopt children. It does not provide state aid to help same-sex couples procreate, however.

The leader of the center-right Union for a Popular Movement, Jean-François Copé, told the newspaper Le Monde on Saturday that if the right returned to power (which is hardly imminent), it would "rewrite" the measure to clarify the legal descent of children adopted by gay couples and to "better protect the rights of children."

He said he disagreed with the law as it stood but respected the decision of the Constitutional Council. "It is a decision that I regret but that I accept," he said Friday.

Mr. Copé said he would attend the May 26 demonstration, which he hoped would broadly include all those disappointed with Mr. Hollande's leadership. He called on them to turn their unhappiness into political commitment.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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