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France: Provision on Same-Sex Marriage Approved by Legislature

(Feb. 7, 2013) On February 2, 2013, the French National Assembly approved a provision on the redefinition of marriage – as an agreement between two people, rather than between a man and a woman – that is part of a major piece of proposed legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in <?France. (Julie Deisher, France National Assembly Approves Article to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage, PAPER CHASE NEWSBURST (Feb. 2, 2013).)

The provision inserts in the Civil Code a new article 143: “Marriage is contracted by two persons of different sex or of the same sex.” (Projet de loi ouvrant le mariage aux couples de personnes de même sexe [Bill Opening Marriage to Couples of the Same Sex], ASSEMBLÉE NATIONALE (Nov. 7, 2012)[scroll down to see the text of the bill in full].) Other provisions of the proposed legislation will affect Civil Code articles having to do with such matters as conflict of laws, adoption and the choice of family name, and coordination of provisions (to adjust the language in other provisions to conform to the same-sex provision language). (Id.)

According to the introduction to the bill, the notion of the opening up of marriage to persons of the same sex has steadily progressed in France since the passage of Law No. 99-944 of November 15, 1999, on the Civil Solidarity Pact, with a majority of French people now being in favor of permitting same-sex marriages. (Id.; The Pacte Civil de Solidarité, ANGLOINFO (last visited Feb. 4, 2013) [brief description of the “PACS” in English and link to the text of the law in French].) By contrast, in Poland, lawmakers recently rejected three items of proposed legislation on civil unions that would have given restricted legal rights to unmarried opposite-sex and same-sex couples. (Deisher, supra; Constance Johnson, Poland: Civil Union Proposal Rejected,GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Feb. 1, 2013).)

The measure on same-sex marriage was passed “despite huge protests … that saw hundreds of thousands of people mass in Paris” to express opposition to it. (French National Assembly Approves Gay Marriage Law, RT (Feb. 2, 2013).) Part of the reason why the proposal has been so hotly debated and opposition to it has been so broad-based is said to have to do with the nature of French institutions; in order to marry, couples must first have a civil marriage ceremony before being able to have a religious wedding, in contrast to the typical practice in many other countries of a religious marriage ceremony being formally recognized by law. Thus, while Portugal and Spain have adopted same-sex marriage laws and the state in each country is obliged to marry homosexual partners, the church is not so obligated; thus “many people opposed to the idea of gay marriage can still be content that a ‘proper’ marriage in a church protects traditional values.” (Id.)

Debate on the bill, for which more than 5,000 amendments have been proposed as part of the reform, is projected to last for two weeks. One controversial measure among that large number of proposals, a clause on assisted reproduction techniques for lesbians, was abandoned as being too controversial. (Id.)