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Mayor backs down from gay wedding after threats

The mayor of a small town in northern France has cancelled her plans to preside over the civil marriage of two women after receiving “violent and threatening” messages.


The mayor of a small town in northern France has cancelled a same-sex marriage ceremony, which she had agreed to preside over on November 10, after receiving a torrent of “violent” threats.

“Given the numerous violent and threatening reactions, I currently cannot take the risk of darkening this day,” Desirée Duhem, the mayor of Hantay, said in a press release sent to FRANCE 24.

A week earlier, Duhem, a member of France’s Socialist Party, caught the attention of the French media by announcing she would perform a civil marriage between two women that would have likely been invalidated by authorities.

In her statement, the mayor said she did not fear legal reprisals against her, but was worried about “unrest” during the ceremony. “By a mutual accord between the two young women and myself, we have cancelled this civil act that is not yet authorised by law.”

Duhem also thanked the many “encouraging” letters and messages of support she received from France and Belgium. Hantay, which counts around 1,000 inhabitants, lies 20 kilometres from the city of Lille and 40 kilometres from the border with Belgium.

Gay marriage storm brewing

France is inching toward legalising marriage and adoption rights for same-sex couples. Government cabinet members approved a draft bill to authorise gay marriage and adoption on November 7, and President François Hollande promised that it will be on the statute books by mid-2013.

In announcing the premature wedding between the lesbian couple, Mayor Duhem said she hoped the government would afford her some leeway.

Hollande, who was elected president in May, campaigned on the promise to extend marriage to same-sex couples.

France has allowed civil unions between same-sex couples, known in France as the Pacs, since 1999.

Anti-gay marriage groups, as well as Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim groups as well as France’s conservative opposition, have called for nationwide protests against gay marriage on November 17.

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