France marks five-year anniversary of same-sex marriage

Gérard Julien, AFP | Vincent Autin and Bruno Boileau became the first same-sex couple to wed in France when they married on May 29, 2015 in the southern city of Montpellier

As couples in France mark five years on Monday since same-sex marriage was made legal with the hashtag #5ansMariagePourTous, ex-president François Hollande expressed regret at not having done more to advance the rights of “non-traditional” families.


France’s government voted to pass a bill legalising same-sex marriage and adoption on April 23, 2013, after months of intense lobbying for and against the legislation. The anti-gay marriage movement, Manif Pour Tous (or Protest For All), mounted a fierce campaign against the measure, at one point claiming to have drawn 1.4 million people to demonstrate in the streets of Paris.

A little more than a month after the law passed, Vincent Autin and Bruno Boileau became the first same-sex couple to wed in France in a highly publicised ceremony in the southern city of Montpellier. More than 40,000 same-sex couples have since married in France, according to the national statistics office Insee.

Five years on, people across the country have taken to social media to celebrate the landmark decision by sharing their own wedding photos.

“It was a much-discussed reform, and I never thought it would be simple to pass,” Hollande, who was president at the time, recalled in an interview with BuzzFeed published on Sunday. “It was a parliamentary battle, a major political and media battle. But what makes a reform interesting isn’t what led to its adoption, but its irreversibility… And now, five years later, who really questions marriage equality and adoption for same-sex couples?”

Irène Théry, a sociologist and expert in family affairs, credited the law with changing the way people in France view the LGBTQ community.

“The law on marriage equality… recognised that a same-sex relationship could, as a couple, integrate our notion of family and conceptions of parenthood. It was an extremely powerful force for integration,” Théry told French daily Le Monde.

“Same-sex couples, married or not, have greater legitimacy today than before the law”.

Battle over assisted reproduction

Although opposition to same-sex marriage appears to have waned, the government has yet to tackle the issues of medically assisted reproduction and surrogacy – two points staunchly opposed by social conservatives and religious groups.

Under French law, assisted reproduction is limited to heterosexual couples and surrogacy is prohibited. This means that lesbian couples and single women who want to have a baby using their own DNA are often forced to go abroad for costly procedures.

Hollande expressed remorse for having failed to fulfill his promise to legalise equal access to medically assisted reproduction for “nontraditional” families.

“I regret that we didn’t go in that direction at the end of my term, because it’s hypocritical. Sure, lesbian couples are allowed to have children, except they’re forced to go to Belgium or Spain, under less than ideal or dignified conditions. Because even if our laws recognise these children, they do not permit for them to be conceived in France.”

“When I met women who first thanked me for legalising same-sex marriage and adoption, but then told me they had found a solution outside of France, I said to myself that I should have taken the next step,” he added.

Hollande said he is opposed to surrogacy on the grounds that it “commodifies the body”, but urged women in France to continue the fight for equal access to assisted reproduction.

“It’s inevitable. And even if they don’t have the right, they should fight so that future generations might have it,” he said.

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