Gay marriage: France; mayor refuses to marry couple

Government warns he risks 'grave sanctions'

11 June, 11:02

    (by Luana De Micco) (ANSAmed) - PARIS, JUNE 11 - Jean-Michel and Guy have been together for 16 years and wanted to get married discreetly, with just a few guests, without all the reporters present at the first same-sex wedding celebrated in France on May 29 between Vincent and Bruno, who got married in Montpellier, in the South.

    Their story however has emerged in spite of their wish for privacy. The mayor of Arcangues, where the couple lives in the French Basque country in the South-West, has categorically refused to perform the ceremony. The two are ready to take the matter to court, if necessary.

    Along with the first marriage of a gay couple, the first refusal by a mayor-conscientious objector in France could not but make headlines. The mayor of Arcangues, Jean-Michel Colo, a right-wing politician, does not intend to follow the same-sex marriage measure declared law for all by President Hollande on May 18. Ever since then, many gay couples were married across the country but Colo, 60, says the law is "illegitimate". 'I refuse to marry two men', he said. 'No homosexual weddings will be celebrated in Arcangues'.

    Interior Minister Manuel Valls warned the mayor of the 'grave sanctions' he is risking, up to five years in jail, a fine of 75.000 euros and suspension. Government spokeswoman Najad Vallaud-Belkacem also warned him that 'the law must be implemented across the whole nation' and this is an obligation.

    Jean-Michel Martin, 55, and his partner Guy Martineau-Espel, 53, met in Paris in 1997 and fell in love right away. They have been living in Arcangues, a small town of 3.000 people close to Biarritz, for ten years now and have already been joined in a civil union known as PACS, a domestic partnership contract, which was the legal alternative to gay marriage in France so far.

    'Ours is not a militant act', the duo told the local press.

    'We only want to sign a document, discreetly'. After the mayor's refusal, they asked the local administration to be married at home by a councilor. But the town's six councilors have all refused, invoking a clause of conscience cited once by Francois Hollande.

    The government is still paying for the faux-pas. The two aspiring spouses have then asked a city nearby but, under the law, they must get married without exception in the city of residence. As a sign of protest, Jean-Michel and Guy have sent their voter registration cards to the justice ministry and are threatening not to pay local taxes. If they will decide to sue the mayor, he will not be able to escape from a conviction for discrimination.(ANSAmed).

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