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: Leading member of Greens party
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."
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.