France's Roman Catholic Church objects to first gay marriage
May 21 2004 11:00 PM ET
The Roman Catholic Church joined the growing debate over gay marriage in France by voicing its objection in an article published Friday to a proposed summer wedding between two men.
"I must state my disagreement," Archbishop Jean-Pierre Ricard, president of the Conference of Bishops of France, wrote in L'Aquitaine, a bimonthly regional journal of the Bordeaux diocese, and the national Catholic daily La Croix. "Our society could not put the union of a man and a woman, which can lead to the birth of new human beings, on the same plane as two like beings, which
Ricard said the church objects to gay marriage and adoption by same-sex couples not only on religious grounds but also as a means "to support the founding principles of social life itself. It must be said [that] a child, born from the union of a man and a woman, needs a father and a mother."
Green Party lawmaker Noel Mamere plans to perform France's first same-sex wedding on June 5, which has prompted national debate and a government denunciation. The ceremony will take place in the southwestern French town of Begles, where Mamere is mayor.
Justice minister Dominique Perben has said that gay marriage is illegal in France, and the state will not recognize a same-sex wedding. "This wedding will be purely and simply null and void, because it's against the law," Perben told the French newspaper Le Figaro.
France's civil code governing weddings specifically mentions "husband and wife," and to say otherwise is "a lie," Perben said, adding that Mamere risks sanctions if he goes ahead with the marriage.
A 1999 French law gave unmarried couples, including same-sex couples, extensive legal rights if they register their unions with the state. Called PACS, it was pushed through by the former leftist government and created a fierce public debate in France, with opponents claiming it would undermine
traditional family values.