• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Gay couple sue mayor over wedding refusal

AFP/The Local · 26 Jun 2013, 12:08

Published: 26 Jun 2013 12:08 GMT+02:00

Jean-Michel Colo, the mayor of Arcangues, stirred up controversy by becoming the first French official to formally refuse to officiate at the wedding of gay partners, Jean-Michel Martin and Guy Martineau-Espel, and has made several combative statements.

Isabelle Duguet, the couple's lawyer, said she had filed a case against Colo for discrimination and refusal to carry out his official duties. The 60-year-old has been mayor of Arcangues for three decades.

Duguet said Colo could face a five-year jail term and a €75,000 fine.

"For me, marriage is for a woman and man to have children. I am not discriminating, as a same-sex couple is sterile. It's a parody of equality, it's a big lie," Colo had said earlier, defending his stand.

"I will go to the gallows" rather than back down, Colo said.

Interior Minister Manuel Valls has warned Colo of "significant sanctions", telling reporters that any public servants refusing to respect the letter of the law would be guilty of discrimination and thus risk up to three years in prison, as well as paying €45,000 in damages.

The frustrated Martin had told AFP that the couple had even tried to tell Colo that the nuptials would not be played out in the media but he had failed to persuade him to marry them.

"Our initial aim was to create the least waves possible, without any publicity or media presence," Martin said.

"To respect his beliefs, we even told him that we were ready to get married not in the town hall but in our home in the presence of a magistrate but he refused this too."

"It is now time to turn to the law," said Martineau-Espel. "We had been ready to make concessions earlier, now we want the marriage to be held at the town hall."

Colo is far from the only French mayor to have refused to officiate at the wedding of a gay couple. 

On Wednesday Jean-Yves Clouet, the mayor of the small town of Mesanger in northwestern France, has also voiced his defiance, saying: "I have my convictions and I will not carry out these kind of marriages, that's for sure."

Earlier in June, Claude Binaud, six-time mayor of Matha, a town in the Charente-Maritime region of south-western France, caused a stir by refusing to marry a local man, Bernard Rouhaud, and his partner.

Story continues below…

Binaud qualified his refusal, however, by saying that he "would consider marrying two girls.”

“Two girls, I might have said yes, if my back was against the wall. But that’s totally different, they can have children,” he said.

In April, France became the 14th country to legalise same-sex marriage after President Francois Hollande, who had made the issue a major electoral plank, signed the measure into law following months of bitter political debate.

The first gay marriage in France was held on May 29th.

AFP/The Local (dan.macguill@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Paris luxury hotel told to pay up after guest molests cleaner

A cleaner who was molested at a Paris luxury hotel by a Qatari guest has reportedly been awarded €57,000.

Frenchman leading Brexit negotiations starts new job
Photo: AFP

Frenchman Michel Barnier officially starts work as the European Commission's Brexit negotiator on Saturday in an appointment that British media called a "declaration of war".

VIDEO: Frenchman goes on iPhone-smashing rampage
Photo: YouTube Screenshot

Meet France's angriest Apple customer.

Nuit Blanche: Get set for an all-night party in Paris
Photo: La Nuit Blanche

Will YOU be heading down to the Seine on Saturday?

France told there's no more money for TGVs
High speed TGV trains parked in Lille. Photo: AFP

A report from the French senate has recommended that three planned high speed rail networks be scrapped.

Frenchman surfs again after shark bites off his leg
All photos: AFP

Meet the amputee Frenchman who is surfing again he was attacked by a shark.

Paris motorists to fund city's public transport system
Photo: AFP

Motorists in the Ile-de-France region will be hit by a tax rise in order to finance the city's trains and buses.

More French women becoming mothers after 40
French mums are getting older. File photo: Pexels

French mums are getting older, but the overall birthrate has fallen.

Paris police bust high-rolling gang of pram thieves
Photo: Joe Shlabotnik/Flickr

A gang of thieves has been caught after they pinched an estimated €100,000 worth of prams.

French banned from 'Mona Lisa smile' on photo IDs
You can forget a smile like this on your passport photo.

The French are going to have to remain grumpy-looking, at least on their passport photos.

Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
National
It's official: France finally gets its new map
National
VIDEOS: France's raunchiest TV commercials of all time
Sexism at the wheel: France wants more women drivers
Society
Lifestyle
VIDEO: Is life on a French café terrace really this bad?
Society
Only in France: 'Drive slowly - grape juice on the roads'
Society
Saudi princess 'told guard to kill Paris decorator'
Education
Why are foreign students in France 'Europe's unhappiest'?
Education
The troubles with French universities laid bare
Culture
The crazy French writing phrases you can't get your head around
Features
Room for improvement: Paris's matchbox apartments
'Stop telling immigrants to be French and help it happen'
Society
Take the test: How far have you assimilated into French culture?
Lifestyle
Eleven things you should know before moving to Paris
National
France's Marion Cotillard rebuffs rumours of fling with Brad Pitt
National
Eight arrested over links to Nice truck attacker
Features
Why everyone should party in a French chateau at least once
Travel
The Frenchman who hated 'Nazi-Zealand' after four-day hitch-hike fail
Culture
What's on: Ten exciting events across France in September
The 45-million year old underground shells that flavour Champagne
Features
French job speak: All the terms you need to know
'Resilient' Paris now a more appealing city than New York
National
France says it's OK to warn drivers about speed cameras
Meet Honorine, 113, the oldest person in France
2,734
jobs available