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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

French High Court to Rule on Gay Unions

By Steve Weinstein -

The Constitutional Council, France’s highest court, has agreed to rule on a case of two women who have conceived children by artificial insemination. The women want to call their relationship a marriage and have it recognized as such.

The French have resisted formal legal recognition of same-sex relationships more than other Western European democracies, despite its historic liberalism and anti-clericalism. The women’s lawyer, Emmanuel Ludot, told the newspaper Le Figaro, he is arguing, "It’s not a matter of asking the Constitutional Council if it will make a pronouncement for or against homosexual marriage. It’s necessary to be more subtle."

Ludot will ask, according to Catholic website Lifesite News, whether "the judge, guarantor of individual liberties and notably the liberty to contract, has the power to authorize or not the marriage of two responsible adults."

He will also imply that France is violating the International Convention on the Rights of Man that assures everyone of the right to marry and establish a family. France does have "civil solidarity packs" that allow any couples the legal benefits of marriage.

Civil solidarity pacts, a form of registered domestic partnership, were enacted in 1999 for both same-sex and unmarried opposite-sex couples. Couples who enter into a PACS contract are afforded most of the legal protections and responsibilities of marriage.

As the institution of marriage declines, more and more heterosexual couples are availing themselves of these pacts. In December, the New York Times reported that "French couples are increasingly shunning traditional marriages and opting instead for civil unions, to the point that there are now two civil unions for every three marriages."

Although, the article noted, it "remains unclear whether the idea of a civil union, called a pacte civil de solidarité, or PACS, has responded to a shift in social attitudes or caused one, it has proved remarkably well suited to France and its particularities about marriage, divorce, religion and taxes -- and it can be dissolved with just a registered letter."

The pacts are widely expected to outnumber marriages in the not-too-distant future, making France the first post-marriage Western nation.
EDGE Editor-in-Chief Steve Weinstein has been a regular correspondent for the International Herald Tribune, the Advocate, the Village Voice and Out. He has been covering the AIDS crisis since the early ’80s, when he began his career. He is the author of "The Q Guide to Fire Island" (Alyson, 2007). 

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