France: Far-right mayor refuses to officiate at same-sex wedding

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A far-right mayor in the south of France has refused to officiate at the wedding of a lesbian couple, despite the government’s recently passed same-sex marriage law.

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, back in May.

Recently however, yet another mayor has caused controversy after refusing to comply with the law and officiate at a lesbian couple’s wedding.

Amandine Gilles, 33, and Angélique Leroux, 27, hoped to be married in their hometown in south-eastern France on 10 September.

But on Friday Bollène mayor Marie-Claude Bompard met them and told them that she would not carry out the ceremony because it was against her religious beliefs.

She said she would also refuse to lawfully delegate another councillor to carry out the ceremony.

Ms Bompard is a member of far-right split from Marine Le Pen’s Front National, the Ligue du Sud (Southern League), led by her husband, Jacques.

Jacques Bompard, who is a member of the city of Orange, has also refused to officiate at a same-sex wedding but delegated his responsibility to a fellow councillor.

Accusing the government of threatening “disproportionate and illegitimate” sanctions against mayors who refuse to carry out the gay marriage law, Bollène council’s head of communications, Jean Vallier, urged that the mayor’s opposition was a “case of conscience”.

The mayor of nearby Saint-Saturnin-lès-Avignon, Bernard Goudon, phoned the couple to offer to carry out the ceremony but they have since written to the region’s prefect to call on him to demand that Ms Bompard carry out her legal obligations.

Ms Bompard said earlier that she would ask the prefect to designate somebody else to carry out the ceremony.

Ms Gilles and Ms Leroux told the Vaucluse Matin newspaper that they have received a great deal of support from local citizens.

In June, another gay couple were the first to be denied an officiated wedding when the mayor of Arcangues, in southwest France, said: “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.”

Mayors in France who refuse to officiate at same-sex weddings, or fail to delegate the duties appropriately, could be sentenced for discrimination, which carries penalties of up to five years in prison and up to a €75,000 (£63,000) fine.

Vincent Autin, a 40-year-old PR firm head, and his husband Bruno Boileau, a 29-year-old government worker, were the first same-sex couple to be married in Montpellier’s town hall, with security on high alert.

The City’s Mayor Helene Mandroux, officiated, called the ceremony an “historic moment”, and said the couple represented a “united France”.

After the ceremony, whilst opening mail regarding the passing of equal marriage, government officials found threats, including a package of faeces addressed to Montpellier’s mayor.

One of the leaders of France’s vocal anti-equal marriage campaign sent her “best wishes” to Vincent and Bruno, but vowed to keep fighting to now attempt a repeal of the country’s new equal marriage law.