France’s highest court rules mayors cannot refuse to perform same-sex marriages

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France’s highest court has ruled that mayors cannot refuse to hold same-sex weddings in the country.

A law recognising equal marriage took effect in May, but several mayors rejected it as a matter of “conscience”.

Earlier this summer Jean-Michel Colo, the mayor of Arcangues, in south-west France, refused to marry a gay couple and said “I will go to the gallows” in order to defy the law.

However, the Constitutional Council ruled on Friday that the law does not provide a “conscience clause” for its opponents.

“The council judged that, in view of the functions of a state official in the officiating of a marriage, the legislation does not violate their freedom of conscience,” it said in a statement.

“The Constitutional Council has been manipulated by politics. It is a political decision,” Jean-Michel Colo told AFP.

Mr Colo said opponents would now take their case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Meanwhile, Manif Pour Tous said it supports “all the mayors who courageously dare to assert their right to freedom of conscience”.

Manif Pour Tous has been at the forefront of violent protests against the legalisation of equal marriage.

In France, marriages can only be made official by state authorities.

Earlier this month, during a debate of Scotland’s proposed equal marriage bill, Scotland’s Health Secretary Alex Neil told Members of the Scottish Parliament that registrars who object to same-sex marriages will not be forced to carry them out.

Mr Neil said the responsibility to provide equal access to marriage in Scotland would lie with local authorities, not with individual registrars.

But he stressed that it was a requirement of all authorities to ensure same-sex couples had absolutely no barriers to marriage ceremonies.

In response, Scotland’s Equality Network warned against allowing registrars to opt out of the proposed legislation as a point of principle.

The charity said Scottish law should mirror that of England and Wales’ Marriage (Same Sex Couples Act) – which requires all public sector registrars to be able to perform same-sex marriages regardless of religious belief as part of the Equality Act.