Same-sex marriage in France has been legal since 18 May 2013, making France the thirteenth country worldwide to allow same-sex couples to marry. The legislation applies to metropolitan France as well as to all French overseas departments and territories.
A bill granting same-sex couples the right to marry and jointly adopt children was introduced to the National Assembly by the Socialist Government of Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault on 7 November 2012, with the support of President François Hollande who declared his intent to support the legislation during his campaign for the presidency. On 12 February 2013, the National Assembly approved the bill in a 329–229 vote. On 12 April 2013, the Senate approved the bill with amendments in a 171–165 vote, followed by the approval of the amended bill by the National Assembly on 23 April 2013 in a 331–225 vote. However, a challenge to the law by the conservative Union for a Popular Movement party was filed with the Constitutional Council following the vote. On 17 May 2013, the Council ruled that the law was constitutional. That same day, President Hollande promulgated the bill, which was officially published the next day in the Journal Officiel de la République Française. The first official same-sex marriage ceremony took place on 29 May 2013 in the city of Montpellier.
Despite the creation and implementation in 1999 of the civil solidarity pact (French: pacte civil de solidarité, French pronunciation: [pakt sivil də sɔlidaʁite]),[a] more commonly known as PACS, a system allowing civil partnerships between two persons without regard to their gender and guaranteeing certain personal and civil rights to both "pacsés", there was considerable political and societal debate over same-sex marriage in France during the first decade of the 21st century.
On 5 June 2004, former Green Party presidential candidate Noël Mamère, mayor of the Bordeaux suburb of Bègles, conducted a same-sex marriage ceremony for two men, Bertrand Charpentier and Stéphane Chapin. Mamère claimed that there was nothing in French law to prohibit such a ceremony, and that he would appeal any challenge to the European Court of Human Rights.
Minister of Justice Dominique Perben had stated that such unions would be legally void, and called for judicial intervention to halt the ceremony. On 27 July 2004, the Bordeaux Court of General Jurisdiction declared the marriage null and void. One legal argument defended by the public prosecutor, representing the national government, was that the French Civil Code contained several mentions of husband and wife, thereby implying different genders. On 19 April 2005, the Appeals Court of Bordeaux upheld the ruling, and on 14 March 2007, the Court of Cassation turned down Charpentier and Chapin's appeal. On 9 June 2016, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the decision to invalidate Charpentier and Chapin's marriage did not constitute an infringement of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Shortly after the ceremony took place, Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin instituted disciplinary procedures against Mayor Mamère, suspending him from his duties for one month. The local administrative court ruled that Mamère's suspension was legal and substantiated. Mamère said he would not appeal the ruling, having already unsuccessfully attempted to get an injunction from the court, then appealing the case to the Council of State; both had ruled that an injunction was not justified on grounds of urgency.
On 11 May 2004, Socialist Party leader François Hollande announced that he would ask his party to file a draft law making same-sex marriages unequivocally legal. Some other party leaders, such as former Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, publicly disapproved of same-sex marriage. Hollande's partner, Ségolène Royal, said at the time that she harbored doubts about same-sex marriage, though now fully supports it.
A parliamentary "Report on the Family and the Rights of Children" was released on 25 January 2006. Although the committee recommended increasing some of the rights already granted by the PACS civil partnership, it recommended maintaining prohibitions against marriage, adoption, and access to medically assisted reproduction for same-sex couples, arguing that these three issues were inseparable and that allowing them would contravene a number of articles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which France is a signatory (though many UN member nations did grant some or all of these rights to same-sex couples). Referring to the rights of children as a human rights issue, the report argued that children "now have rights, and to systematically give preference to adult aspirations over respect for these rights is not possible anymore." Because of these prohibitions, left-wing members of the committee rejected the report.
LGBT organizations in France, believing that the prohibition of same-sex marriage was contrary to the Constitution of France, asked the Constitutional Council to examine the constitutionality of same-sex marriage and to review the articles of the Civil Code. On 28 January 2011, the Council decided that the illegality of same-sex marriages was not contrary to the Constitution, further stating that same-sex marriage legalization was a question for Parliament to decide.
Main article: Bill 586
On 14 June 2011, the National Assembly of France voted 293–222 against legalizing same-sex marriage. Deputies of the governing Union for a Popular Movement party mostly voted against the measure, while deputies of the Socialist Party mostly voted in favour. Members of the Socialist Party stated that legalization of same-sex marriage would become a priority should they gain a majority in the 2012 legislative election.
On 12 November 2011, Mayor Jean Vila of Cabestany performed a same-sex wedding ceremony for a couple named Patrick, 48, and Guillaume, 37. The marriage was not recorded in order to prevent a subsequent nullification, and Vila described it as a "militant act", saying that "there are times when it is necessary to act outside the law. Refusing homosexual marriage is to deny the reality of thousands of couples."
The French Government's reaction was mixed: the Secretary of State for Family, Claude Greff, called the event a "provocation on the eve of the presidential election", while Minister of Solidarity and Social Cohesion Roselyne Bachelot stated that she supported same-sex marriage but that the ceremony was "not the best way to advance the cause".
Main article: Law 2013-404
During his campaign for the 2012 presidential election, Socialist Party candidate François Hollande declared his support for same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex couples, including them as one of his campaign's 60 government commitments. On 6 May 2012, Hollande won the election and promised to pass same-sex marriage legislation before the spring of 2013. On 17 June, Hollande's party won an absolute majority in the National Assembly, followed by an announcement by government spokesperson Najat Vallaud-Belkacem that a same-sex marriage bill would be adopted in spring 2013 at the latest. On 3 July, in his first speech in front of the newly elected assembly, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault announced that marriage and adoption for all couples would be a reality "in the first semester of 2013". The draft bill was submitted to the French Parliament on 7 November 2012.
On 2 February 2013, the National Assembly approved the first article of the same-sex marriage bill by 249 votes to 97; the debate took several days as opponents introduced more than 5,000 amendments to the bill in order to slow down its passage. On 12 February, the National Assembly approved the bill as a whole in a 329–229 vote and sent it to the Senate.
The Senate started the debate on the bill on 4 April 2013 and five days later approved its first article in a 179–157 vote. On 12 April, the Senate approved the bill with minor amendments in a 171–165 vote. The Senate version of the marriage bill was adopted by the National Assembly on 23 April 2013 in a 331–225 vote.
The opposition Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party immediately filed a challenge against the law with the Constitutional Council. On 17 May 2013, the Council declared the law constitutional. The same day, President François Hollande promulgated the bill, which was officially published on 18 May 2013 in the Journal Officiel de la République Française. The first official same-sex wedding ceremony took place on 29 May in the city of Montpellier.
The same-sex marriage law is commonly referred to in France as la loi Taubira ("the Taubira law"), in reference to Justice Minister Christiane Taubira who introduced the bill to the French Assembly in November 2012 and was the bill's main sponsor.
In June 2013, the French Government issued a circulaire "relating to the consequences of illegally refusing to celebrate a marriage on the part of a civil registrar", wherein it declared the illegality of any refusal by a state officer to grant marriage certificates to same-sex couples. The bulletin stipulates a punishment of 5 years' imprisonment and a fine of 75,000€ for any mayor or local official who refuses to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple on the sole basis of their sexual orientation. The official may also face discrimination charges under Article 432-7 of the Penal Code. 146 mayors unsuccessfully challenged the bulletin in French courts. Their case eventually made its way to the European Court of Human Rights, which dismissed it in October 2018.
There had been initial confusion over whether the act applied to nationals of Algeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Kosovo, Laos, Montenegro, Morocco, Poland, Serbia, Slovenia or Tunisia, as it breached bilateral agreements stipulating that the law of those countries applies rather than French law. The Court of Cassation ruled that it does in September 2015, finding the provisions excluding these countries discriminatory and contrary to French law.
In 2013, following the introduction of same-sex marriage in France, approximately 7,000 same-sex couples were legally married in the country. They made up approximately 3% of all marriages in that time, with three out of every five same-sex marriages involving male couples. Approximately 10,500 same-sex marriages took place in France in 2014, representing 4% of all marriages performed that year. Male couples accounted for about 54% of these marriages, while lesbian couples accounted for the remaining 46%. Some 6,000 French communes performed at least one same-sex marriage. 1,331 same-sex couples married in the French capital of Paris, comprising 13.5% of the total number of weddings performed in the city.
|Year||Same-sex marriages||Total marriages||Same-sex PACS||Total PACS|
From May 2013 to December 2016, approximately 32,640 same-sex marriages were performed in France.
By 23 April 2018, five years after the French Parliament had approved the same-sex marriage law, approximately 40,000 same-sex couples had married in the country. This represented about 3.5% of all marriages performed during that time. The departments with the highest share of same-sex marriages were Paris (9.7%), Calvados (5.6%), Charente-Maritime (5.4%), Hérault (5.1%), Orne (4.8%), and Alpes-de-Haute-Provence (4.6%), whereas the departments with the lowest shares were Guadeloupe (0.3%), Mayotte (0.6%), Martinique (0.6%), French Guiana (1%), Haute-Corse (1.1%), and Réunion (1.2%).
In Martinique, the first same-sex marriage was performed in June 2013 for a lesbian couple. The first same-sex wedding in Guadeloupe occurred in July 2013 in the city of Saint-Anne. In Mayotte, the first same-sex wedding was performed in September 2013 in Mamoudzou, the largest city in the department. This marked the first time in history that a legally recognized same-sex marriage occurred in a jurisdiction where a majority of the population follows the religion of Islam.
In Réunion, the first same-sex marriage was performed for a lesbian couple in June 2013. By July 2015, 93 same-sex couples had married on the island.
The first same-sex marriage in French Guiana took place in August 2013. The couple wed in the city of Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni. By April 2018, 12 same-sex couples had married in the capital city of Cayenne.
The first same-sex marriage in French Polynesia took place on the island of Mo'orea in July 2013. In Saint Martin, the first same-sex marriage was performed in October 2013, and the first in Saint Pierre and Miquelon occurred in March 2014.
By February 2014, 11 same-sex marriages had occurred in New Caledonia, representing 1.7% of all marriages, with 9 of these being performed in the South Province and the remaining 2 in the North Province.
Overall, relatively few same-sex marriages have been performed in the overseas departments and territories compared with metropolitan France. According to a 2018 report, eight same-sex marriages had been performed in Saint Barthélemy, five in French Polynesia, four in Saint Martin, two in Saint Pierre and Miquelon and one in Wallis and Futuna since legalization.
In May 2015, the United Protestant Church of France voted to allow their pastors to bless same-sex marrriages. The measure, which was passed by 94 votes to 3, also includes a freedom of conscience clause allowing pastors with objections to opt out. A marriage between two lesbian pastors was celebrated in the church in Montpellier in July 2021.
Opinion polls show that the French public supports the legalization of same-sex marriage, with that support gradually increasing over time: