Liberté, égalité – and gay marriage

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Vincent Autin and Bruno Boileau | BBC | 14252

On 29 May 2013 Vincent Autin and Bruno Boileau said “oui” in the southern city of Montpellier in France’s first legal gay marriage, but amid tight security. The ceremony was broadcast live on French TV. The Socialist mayor of Montpellier, Helene Mandroux, conducted the ceremony, announcing “I now pronounce you united in marriage.” Her announcement was met with applause from the guests, as Frank Sinatra’s ‘Love and Marriage’ was played.

Mr Autin made a short speech after the ceremony thanking supporters. “Love yourselves, let’s love ourselves, because it’s important,” he said. Mr Autin, a 40-year-old gay rights activist, met his 30-year-old partner in 2006.

French President Francois Hollande signed the law making the country the ninth in Europe, and 14th globally, to legalise gay marriage, on May 19th 2013, after the country’s Constitutional Council had given him the go-ahead. He said: “I have taken the decision; now it is time to respect the law of the Republic.”

UMP President Jean-Francois Cope said he regretted the Constitutional Council’s decision but would respect it. Another senior UMP figure, Herve Mariton, said the party would come up with alternative proposals in 2017 that were “more respectful of the rights of children”.

There had been a prolongued and agitated campaign by opponents of gay marriage in France. Opponents staged one of the biggest demonstrations of popular feeling that the country has seen in years; some 340,000 people, according to police, marched through central Paris, while supporters of gay marriage staged their own shows of strength, and believe they have public opinion on their side. 125,000 supporters of gay marriage also rallied in Paris, police said. The opposing group found a spokeswoman in a performer who goes by the pseudonym Frigide Barjot. The scale of the “manif pour tous”, the reaction against gay marriage and adoption, took many outside observers by surprise.

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