France Court: Mayors Can't Refuse to Perform Gay Marriages

Monday, 21 Oct 2013 02:37 AM

By Robert Brothers

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The Constitutional Council —  France’s highest court  — has ruled that mayors cannot refuse to officiate at homosexual marriage ceremonies, France24 reported.

The ruling rejected arguments by a group of mayors and other local officials who challenged a controversial same-sex marriage law which took effect in May.

The mayors wanted the measure to include a “freedom of conscience” clause  giving officiators the right to refrain from participating in same-sex ceremonies if doing so would violate their  religious or moral beliefs.

The lack of such a clause in the bill, they contended, was a violation of  the French constitution.

The court rejected this argument, holding that the government refrained from putting in such a provision in order “to assure the law is applied by its agents and to guarantee the proper functioning and neutrality of public service,” the Council said. “Freedom of conscienceis not violated by officiating at weddings.”

Franck Meyer, a spokesman for the mayors, said they would appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, citing the “right to express the diversity of opinion in French society,” the BBC reported.

Meanwhile, Manif Pour Tous, a group opposed to gay marriage in France,  said it supports “all the mayors who courageously dare to assert their right to freedom of conscience,” France24 reported.

The organization says it has obtained more than 80,000 signatures for a petition it launched defending mayors’ rights to not officiate at gay weddings.

French President François Hollande made legalizing gay marriage his flagship for social reform. However, the issue aroused stronger than expected opposition in France, with opinion polls indicating that nearly half of the population opposes homosexual marriage, according to the BBC.

Some 600 gay couples have been married since the law took effect, the BBC reported.

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