France’s Highest Court Rules Against Gay Marriage
France’s law prohibiting gay marriage does not violate the constitution, the country’s top constitutional watchdog ruled Friday, all but challenging parliament to debate overturning the ban.
The decision by the Constitutional Council puts the politically sensitive issue at the doorstep of French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s governing conservatives, ratcheting up the pressure as they face presidential and legislative elections next year. Gay rights activists quickly condemned the ruling.
The issue has bared a contradiction about France: The country retains a conservative strain on family values, but its image is often linked to love and romance - and polls suggest openness to gay marriage is growing.
Corinne Cestino and Sophie Hasslauer, who have lived together for 15 years, have four kids and seek the right to wed, challenged the constitutionality of the French civil code’s stipulation that marriage must be between a man and a woman.
The couple have registered as civil partners, receiving tax benefits and other financial advantages, but gay rights activists point out the status does not allow for inheritance rights or joint custody of goods, among other things.
In its decision, the Council noted that lawmakers had agreed that the "difference in situations of same-sex couples and couples made up of a man and a woman can justify a difference in treatment concerning family rights."
The panel said two articles in France’s civil code that define marriage as the union of a man and a woman are "in conformity with the constitution."
"It’s not up to the Constitutional Council to substitute its assessment for that of lawmakers," wrote the body, noting that its job is to simply rule on whether a measure abides by freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.
Cestino and Hasslauer’s lawyer, responding to the ruling in an interview with AP Television News, insisted they weren’t disappointed - and claimed some success.