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French lesbians' ten-year battle to marry hits another hurdle

Video by Florence VILLEMINOT

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2011-01-28

A lesbian couple’s ten-year legal battle looks set to continue after France's Constitutional Council upheld the country's ban on homosexual marriage Friday.

Corrine Cestino and Sophie Hasslauer’s ten-year battle to marry hit another stumbling block Friday, after France’s Constitutional Council upheld the country’s ban on gay marriage.

Cestino and Hasslauer, who have been in a relationship for almost 14 years and have four children, took their fight to be allowed to legally marry to the country’s highest constitutional court.

The body ruled that there was no conflict between the law as it stands and fundamental rights enshrined by the constitution. The council furthermore argued that it was up to parliament to decide whether the law should change, rather than constitutional authorities.

The couple already have a legally recognised civil partnership, which is known as the “pacs” in France. However, for them, it is not a marriage. The ‘pacs’ contract was introduced in 1999 to appease gay rights campaigners, but legally, it pales in comparison with marriage. “Marriage is the only solution in terms of protecting our children, sharing parental authority, settling inheritance problems and eventual custody if one of us were to die,” the couple told AFP.

Despite this setback, the couple apparently plan to fight on. Hasslauer told France 2 after the announcement, “Our struggle does not end today.”
 
Furthermore, the pair’s lawyer Emmanuel Ludot told AP Television News "The debate is still open as the Constitutional Council sends the hot potato back to the politicians."
 
Is France lagging behind?
 
There are already nine European Union members who, to differing degrees, allow same-sex couples to marry: Belgium, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Denmark and Sweden. In the UK, civil unions afford the same rights as marriage but the government has stopped short of calling it ‘marriage’.
 
The decision, and the fact that France is arguably behind the European curve on the issue, may surprise many outside of France. On social issues the country has a reputation for being a trailblazer and is furthermore famed for its ‘laissez-faire’ attitude towards love and sex.

Combined with this, public opinion in France seems to be out of step with the constitutional court’s ruling. A survey by TNS Sofres Friday showed 58 percent of respondents in favour of gay marriage and 35 percent against. In 2006, the same pollsters reported 51 percent against and 45 percent for.
 
Laura Petersell from the gar-rights group Act Up Paris campaign told FRANCE 24: “Although France claims to be constitutionally a secular state, our legislation is too entrenched in outdated religious morals to move on.”

Corrine Cestino and Sophie Hasslauer with their four children: the eldest (16), from a previous relationship, and the younger three (aged between six and ten), conceived through artificial insemination in Belgium (prohibited for homosexual couples in France).

 

Date created : 2011-01-28

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