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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 March 2007, 12:36 GMT
French gay marriage fight goes on
By Petru Clej
BBC News

Noel Mamere
Noel Mamere has vowed to fight on to legalise gay marriage
A mayor who conducted the first gay wedding in France has vowed to continue his fight in spite of a court decision which ruled it illegal.

Noel Mamere, Mayor of Begles in south-west France, officiated at the "marriage" of two gay men in June 2004.

But it was declared illegal by France's highest court on Tuesday.

The two men, Stephane Chapin and Bertrand Charpentier, have said they will appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

Mr Mamere told BBC News he was not surprised by the decision of the Court de Cassation, which confirmed earlier decisions by two lower courts.

"It is a part of a conservative conception of marriage", Noel Mamere said.

"I have no regrets. I subscribe to this cause and I will persist."

The wedding in Begles in June 2004 was the first and only same-sex marriage held in France.

Political fight

Mr Mamere was suspended for one month by the then interior minister, Dominique de Villepin, currently France's prime minister.

Noel Mamere
Noel Mamere with newly weds Bertrand Charpentier and Stephane Chapin

He says he tried to offer rights to people, while not taking away rights from others.

Chapin and Charpentier were given suspended jail sentences in February 2007 for stealing 4,000 euros form their 80-year old landlady, part of which they used to purchase their wedding suits.

Mr Mamere supports their decision to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights for legal recognition of their marriage.

"I was actually enforcing the European Convention for Human Rights which prohibits any discrimination when I performed the marriage in June 2004," he said.

A lawyer for the gay couple, Caroline Mecary said the fight has become a political one.

Campaign issue

"Today a broad debate is under away. I think everybody has been able to form an opinion, and I think that, in the context of the presidential elections, each of the candidates should declare themselves so that the next parliamentary term can finally open marriage to all couples", Caroline Mecary said after Tuesday's verdict was announced.

Segolene Royal
Segolene Royal supports the legalisation of gay marriage

Mr Mamere said one of the leading candidates in April's presidential election, Segolene Royal, had promised to legalise gay marriage.

The centrist candidate, Francois Bayrou, who has been challenging Ms Royal and centre-right candidate Nicolas Sarkozy in recent polls, has come out in favour of gay adoption, but says that marriage should be reserved for heterosexual couples.

France legalised civil partnerships between same sex couples in 1999.

Mr Mamere, who is also a Green Party deputy in the National Assembly, sponsored a bill in 2004 to change the civil code to allow gay marriage, but no major party has supported it.

France annuls first gay wedding
27 Jul 04 |  Europe
Gay marriage divides France
04 Jun 04 |  Europe

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