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Last Updated: Saturday, 5 June, 2004, 12:45 GMT 13:45 UK
First gay marriage held in France
Noel Mamere, mayor of Begles
Mamere says he is only applying party guidelines
A French mayor has presided over the country's first gay marriage.

Noel Mamere officiated at the civil marriage ceremony of two men in the south-western town of Begles, near Bordeaux.

One hour after the ceremony, Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin said he had begun disciplinary proceedings against Mr Mamere.

The former television presenter has ignited a fierce debate over the legality and morality of gay marriage.

He could face suspension or sacking and a fine of 1,500 euros ($2,000).

People on the streets of Paris give their views on France's first gay marriage

Mr Mamere agreed to carry out the marriage of shopworker Bertrand Charpentier, 31, and male nurse Stephane Chapin, 34, because, he said, he wanted to fight all forms of discrimination, including homophobia.

Riot police surrounded the town hall where the ceremony took place, as conservative groups staged protests.

The couple arrived in a brown Rolls-Royce, to the applause of gay rights activists.

TV cameras were there to film the exchange of vows, which was broadcast on French news bulletins.

Mr Mamere said he was "proud" of having officiated at the wedding and added: "I don't consider myself an outlaw."

But Mr de Villepin said the mayor had contravened the French civil code despite a govenrment warning. "I intend to make sure the law of the republic and the authority of the state are respected," he said.

French law already allows civil unions for homosexual couples, but denies them full tax and inheritance rights.

Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin insists that French law specifies that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.

He has already indicated that he believes the ceremony in Begles to be null and void.

The BBC's Jane Bennett-Powell
"Around the world there is a mixed reception for gay marriage"

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