No liberty for French mayors over gay marriage

Mayors in France should be forced to perform same-sex marriages against their religious beliefs, a court has ruled.

Mayors who refuse to do so could face up to five years in prison.

Earlier this year, France legalised gay marriage but included no conscience clause for mayors with personal religious or moral convictions who do not want to perform such ceremonies.

Diversity

A group of mayors and registrars appealed against the gay marriage legislation, saying the lack of a conscience opt-out is unconstitutional.

But the Constitutional Council rejected their appeal, and the group have said they are prepared to take their case to the European Court of Human Rights.

A spokesman for the group of mayors said they would go to the highest court in Europe because, “we are local elected representatives and we have a right to express the diversity of opinion in French society”.

In June, it was reported that a mayor in South West France, Jean-Michel Colo, could face jail and a fine for refusing to conduct a same-sex wedding.

Prison

Under French law, discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation can be punishable by up to half a decade in prison and up to a €75,000 fine.

In England and Wales, the gay marriage legislation does not included a specific get out for marriage registrars with a conscientious objection.

Earlier this year the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s legal advice on the gay marriage legislation said, “registrars who are employed to deliver a public function may be required to solemnise same-sex marriages”.

Roughshod

In September last year a leading human rights QC wrote a legal opinion on the civil liberty implications under same-sex marriage.

Teachers and others could be forced out of their jobs if they fail to endorse such unions, Aidan O’Neill said.

Responding to the legal opinion, Coalition for Marriage said: “The redefinition of marriage would ride roughshod over a person’s right to support marriage as the exclusive union between one man and one woman, whether that person be a teacher, a parent, a foster carer or a marriage registrar.”

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