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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 June, 2004, 15:59 GMT 16:59 UK
French PM warns over gay marriage
Noel Mamere, Mayor of Begles
Noel Mamere: Leading member of Greens party
A mayor in south-western France has been warned that he will face legal action if he carries out the country's first gay wedding on Saturday.

Noel Mamere has promised to marry two homosexual men in a ceremony in Begles, a suburb of the city of Bordeaux.

He says the action is to promote equal rights.

But Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said French law did not allow two people of the same sex to marry, and Mr Mamere would be acting illegally.

"I am defending the law-based state," Mr Raffarin told the National Assembly.

"The Civil Code does not allow or authorise the marriage of two people of the same sex.

"So if such an event were to take place, one could not speak of marriage... This would be an illegal event, null and void under the law...

"Any elected official who does not respect the law in this respect, who does not respect the Civil Code, lays himself or herself open to the punishments provided for by the law.

"My responsibility and that of my government is to ensure that the law-based state is respected and, therefore, the law itself."

Media attention

Mr Mamere, a former television presenter, is a leading figure in the opposition Greens party and was its presidential candidate two years ago.

Despite heavy criticism from the centre-right government, he has insisted that the wedding of Jean-Luc Charpentier and Stephane Chapin will go ahead at the weekend.

Both men have temporarily left Begles because of the intense media attention.

The couple have said they will take their case to the European Court of Human Rights if the marriage is rendered void.

President Jacques Chirac has stated his opposition to gay weddings, instead proposing the strengthening of a law introduced in 1998 to give more rights to cohabiting couples, regardless of their sexes.

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