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France

Hollande admits to gay marriage opt-out gaffe

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2012-11-22

Responding to criticism from a gay-rights advocacy group, French President François Hollande has retracted what he called an “inappropriate” statement implying that he would allow mayors to refuse to officiate at gay weddings.

French President François Hollande was forced to backtrack Wednesday after he implied that mayors would be able to opt out of officiating at gay weddings.

Hollande had told a mayors conference on Tuesday that he respected their “freedom of conscience” and invoked the possibility of allowing them to delegate responsibility to councillors if they had a personal objection to marrying same-sex couples.

The move sparked criticism from Inter-LGBT, a gay-rights advocacy group, which said it was "suspending all relations with the government" until Hollande clarified his statement, which the group said "at best, can be termed a clumsy act and at worse, treachery".

Which is exactly what Hollande did. On Wednesday he told a delegation from Inter-LGBT that “he regretted having spoken inappropriately” about mayors’ “freedom of conscience”.

“The law must be applied everywhere,” Hollande later told reporters.
All couples getting married in France are obliged to undergo a civil ceremony -- even if they plan to have a church wedding. The ceremonies are mostly officiated by mayors, who can be replaced by their deputies.

‘Right to refuse’

The proposed law allowing for gay marriage in France has sparked widespread discontent among local officials, especially in more socially conservative rural areas.
In the southwestern region of Languedoc Roussillon, one in five mayors said they would refuse to marry gay couples, according to a poll by local daily newspaper Midi Libre.

And in the southeastern region of Provence, a campaign by far-right mayor Jacques Bompard -- a former high-ranking member of the French National Front -- calling for the “right to refuse” has gathered more than 2,000 signatures.

Hollande’s announcement was met with consternation by supporters of the bill, which is due to be debated by parliament at the beginning of 2013.

Responding to the mayors’ revolt on November 8, Justice Minister Christiane Taubira insisted that “we can’t massage this law to suit them”.

“I quite understand that some mayors are upset about this,” she said. “But they celebrate marriages as part of their function as officers of the state, and there is no getting away from this responsibility.”

Date created : 2012-11-22

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