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Court slams French official over refusal to marry gay couple

AFP / Anne-Christine Poujoulat (file photo) | Sabrina Hout attends a court hearing in Marseille on September 1, 2015

A deputy mayor in the southern French city of Marseille was given a five-month suspended prison sentence Tuesday for refusing to officiate at the same-sex wedding of two women on religious grounds.

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Sabrina Hout, 39, was found guilty of discrimination in what is believed to be the first case of its kind since France legalised same-sex marriages in 2013.

A court in Marseille heard that on August 16 2014, the Socialist Party deputy mayor had been scheduled to officiate the wedding of two women but, saying she wasn’t feeling well, had a borough council member perform the marriage instead.

However, the council member did not have the legal authorisation to officiate weddings and, as a consequence, the marriage was later declared invalid.

Hout carried out four other weddings that same day, all of them for heterosexual couples.

The two women were eventually legally married by a Marseille district mayor in February last year.

Three witnesses told the court that Hout, a Muslim, had referred to her “religious convictions” as a reason not to perform the marriage.

Hout had said she was not homophobic and put the error down to a "bad set of circumstances."

"I'm really sorry. I'm ashamed of what I did, if it was interpreted as homophobia," she told the court.

But in its verdict the court said the evidence against Hout was “damning”.

“It is imperative that no citizen, irrespective of age, handicap, race, political opinion and, indeed, sexuality, has reason to doubt the neutrality of … elected officials,” it said.

As well as her suspended jail term, Hout was ordered to pay damages of €1,200 to each of the two women.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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