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France holds its first same-sex marriage

May 29, 2013|By Kim Willsher
  • Vincent Autin, left, and Bruno Boileau at their marriage, France's first official same-sex marriage, in the city hall in Montpellier.
Vincent Autin, left, and Bruno Boileau at their marriage, France's… (Pascal Guyot / Agence France-Presse…)

PARIS -- To applause and the strains of Frank Sinatra's "Love and Marriage," France on Wednesday marked its first same-sex marriage.

There was hardly a dry eye in the room at the town hall in the southern city of Montpellier as Vincent Autin and Bruno Boileau said "oui" - the Gallic equivalent of "I do" -- according to French media reports from the scene.

"You dreamed about this day and this day has become a reality. Vincent, Bruno, we are going to, you are going to, live an historic moment," said Mayor Helene Mandroux as she began conducting what the media had called the "marriage of the century."

After the couple had signed the marriage register, Mandroux hugged the clearly delighted pair as Sinatra's classic began to play.

After months of protests and violence against the bill allowing same-sex couples to marriage, and fears demonstrators would try to disrupt the ceremony, there was a large police presence outside the city hall. Before the ceremony, Mandroux told journalists she had been advised by one anonymous caller to "get bodyguards."

Autin, 40, a gay rights campaigner who works in the Montpellier tourist office, and Boileau, 30, a civil servant, published their declaration to marry and organized the ceremony immediately after legislation known as the "marriage for all" bill became law here 10 days ago.

The pair have been living together for seven years and had long planned to be the first gay couple to marry when the law was passed, which made France the 14th country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage.

The law, a key social reform in Socialist President Francois Hollande's 2012 election campaign, also allows gay and lesbian couples to adopt children, something Autin and Boileau have said they plan to do.

Opponents of same-sex marriage have brought parts of French cities to a standstill over recent months with street demonstrations against the measure. At the most recent protest Sunday, attended by more than 150,000 people after the bill had been signed into law, clashes with police resulted in 293 arrests.

On May 21, a well-known right-wing historian and essayist, Dominique Venner, who had described the law allowing same-sex marriage and adoption as "detestable," died after shooting himself inside Paris' famed Notre Dame Cathedral, which was full of tourists and worshipers. In a letter he placed on the altar before pulling out a gun, the 78-year-old Venner wrote: "I offer what remains of my life in an act of protest."

Boileau told Le Point magazine that the aim of the couple's high-profile nuptials was the message of "equality for all, that everyone can marry in their town."

Mandroux told the Nouvel Observateur magazine that the marriage was "not a political act."

"A major discrimination is disappearing. Vincent Autin says it's the victory of love over hate, and I can only agree," the mayor said.

Aftewards Autin quoted Martin Luther King. "It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can stop him from lynching me," he told the hundreds of relatives, friends, well-wishers and journalists at the ceremony.

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