First same-sex couple wed in south of France

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Saturday, June 1, 2013

The first same-sex couple to be married in France tied the knot on Wednesday in the southern city of Montpellier. Mayor of the city Hélène Mandroux, conducted the ceremony between the two men: Vincent Autin, 40 and partner Bruno Boileau, 39. Mandroux said the day was historic in a fight for a discrimination-free society.

The wedding was the first to occur since the same-sex marriage law was adopted on May 18. It was attended by hundreds of guests and security was tight outside the city hall.

On Sunday, tensions were high in Paris when opponents of same-sex marriage staged demonstrations throughout the city. The French police confirmed that they arrested nearly 100 protesters on the esplanade around the Les Invalides monument in Paris. Police resorted to using tear gas to subdue the crowds and most arrests occurred against civilians for refusing to disperse, occupying private property, and possession of weapons.

Over 150,000 people protested in opposition to the law that was passed last month legalising marriage between gay and lesbian couples. Over 4,500 police officers were on duty to provide security for the event, where activists waved pink and blue flags. A dozen far-right rivals to the ruling Socialist Party hung a banner over their headquarters campaigning for current President Francois Hollande to resign.

Tensions also increased after right-wing historian and writer Dominique Venner, 78, committed suicide by shooting himself inside the Notre Dame Cathedral last week. His suicide was seen as a political protest against same-sex marriage and a note left on the altar before his death calling France to return to their Christian origins.

Protest and debate have continued since last November although activists failed to block the marriage law passed last month. The rally had been planned well in advance as participants had not anticipated the law to be passed and adopted so quickly.

Marchers on Sunday believe the "marriage for all" act will have damaging consequences as it may open pathways for same-sex couples to adopt children. Many hoped the demonstrations would stop the Socialist government implementing laws that may allow assisted procreation and the use of surrogates for gay couples.

Support for same-sex marriage however still remains widespread. A survey published on Sunday showed 53 percent of French citizens polled support adoption of the marriage law and 72 percent called for protests to cease.

The demonstrations happened on the same day the Cannes film festival honoured French lesbian love story La Vie d'Adèle with its most prestigious prize, the Palme d'Or. The sexually graphic film is directed by French-Tunisian filmmaker Abdellatif Kechiche.

Last month, France was the fourteenth country in the world, and the ninth within the EU to legalise same-sex marriage. France joins countries including Canada, New Zealand, Sweden, Denmark, and Uruguay, and twelve US states, that have legalised same-sex marriage.



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