France: First same-sex wedding to be held in Montpellier

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

A French couple are planning to wed in the southern city of Montpellier tomorrow, in a ceremony which is set to prove to be symbolic as the first same-sex ceremony in the country, in the face of strong opposition to equal marriage, which was signed into law earlier this month.

Following months of, sometimes violent, protests, and a substantial rise in homophobic attacks, French President Hollande signed the law, making France the fourteenth country in the world to allow equal marriage.

Marriage equality opponents had hoped that challenging the bill before the Constitutional Council would scupper the bill after months of debate and protest.

However the Council declared: “The law allowing same-sex marriage conforms with the constitution.”

Vincent Autin, a 40-year-old PR firm head, and his partner Bruno, a 29-year-old government worker, who declined to give his surname, told the AFP that they were aware of the potential public impact of the ceremony, to take place on 29 May, they have planned.

“We will make this wedding an occasion for everyone. It will be public, open to all activists, to heads of French and international [gay lobby] groups, to the press,” Vincent said.

He went on to say “There will also be moments of love.” The couple have been together for more than five years.

They said that their goal was not only to marry, but eventually to start a family.

“The law will allow that, but we’re very aware that we won’t have the child we both want right away. Mentalities have to change. And of course the path to adoption is long, even for straight people,” Vincent continued.

Montpellier is known as the “French San Francisco”, because of its large gay community.

On Sunday, at the end of a day of tense, but relatively peaceful anti-equal marriage protests, which saw tens of thousands take to the streets of Paris, riot police clashed with hundreds of violent demonstrators.

Last week, Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was evacuated, after a former far-right activist committed suicide by shooting himself in the head, after writing a blog post slamming France’s recently passed equal marriage bill.