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Sachiko Rikimaru

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Bill recognizing same-sex marriage in France

Sachiko Rikimaru
Associate Professor of Japanese and French Comparative Family Law, French Private Law System, and Legal French, Faculty of Law, Chuo University

Foreword

The French Senate, on the night of April 9 this year, passed the first provision of the bill relating to marriage for all, with a vote of 179 for and 157 against. This first provision opens the path for marriage between, not only those of opposing sexes, but also those of the same sex. Then, on April 10, the Senate made it possible for same-sex couples to adopt children.

Because the Senate submitted a revised bill regarding the lineage of children where a child-parent relationship has been established, future deliberations has been sent back to the National Assembly. The second reading has been set for between April 17 and 21.

With the Senate basically approving marriage for all, there are signs that the enactment of this bill is not too far away.

I would like you to have a simple look at the process up until now relating to issues surrounding whether the marriage of same-sex couples is accepted or not in France.

1. What is the bill relating to marriage for all?

The bill relating to marriage for all is the embodiment of the 31st pledge given by François Hollande during the election race when he won the May 2012 Presidential Election. The bill was submitted in October 2012 and was decided upon by the cabinet on November 7. However, although it was for all people, as far as opposing couples were concerned, marriage until now was recognized as a matter of course. Because of that, this law was attempting to recognize a new change in marriage of same-sex couples. An interesting fact is, in the Submission of the Bill, the text of the French Civil Code itself is given as one of the bases for recognizing same-sex marriage. That is to say, in the French Civil Code, no specific regulations ever existed stating that marriage must be conducted between a man and a woman. Therefore, there is no need to confine marriage to members of the opposite sex. Traditionally, due to the designation of the legal age of marriage for males and females in the legal age of marriage provision, marriage has been read and interpreted as being something that takes place between a man and a woman. However, in this explanatory statement, the non-existence of a clear regulation in the Civil Code was presented as a basis for recognizing marriage between same-sex couples.

2. Movements until now on whether to recognize same-sex marriage or not

Actually, this isn窶冲 the first time there has been movements to give uniform protection to same-sex couples in France. In 1999, the French Socialist Party cabinet of the time, backed by Justice Minister テ瑛isabeth Guigou, approved and enacted Pacte civil de solidaritテゥ (PACS). During the deliberations, Guigou constantly stressed that PACS constituted a pact, not marriage. In regards to PACS itself, if farmland inheritance reached between siblings was recognized by portioning the land in accordance to their portions, a sufficient area of land couldn窶冲 be guaranteed for farmland. PACS was initially considered to be introduced to avoid the possibility. However, in the end, it was passed as a bill to give uniform protection to couples in de-facto marriages, regardless of whether they were of the same-sex or opposing sex.

In this way, although same-sex couples weren窶冲 specifically singled out under the law, with the establishment of the PACS law, same-sex couples who were, up until now, not entitled to marry and with no protection, can receive uniform protection by entering a pact. There is no doubt that this law played a major role.

3. Issues remaining with the PACS law

As you saw above, PACS made a step forward in one direction. However, on the other hand, this law came under fire for being insufficient in terms of rights to have children as the same-sex couples could not adopt the child of one of the couple they had in previous (opposite-sex) marriages.

In regards to rights to have children, there were both positive and negative views in the PACS law deliberation process. That is to say, while there were those who were critical of same-sex couples having children using the reason that for a child to grow, both a male and female parent is necessary, the following opinion was presented. Namely, in French households today, many are facing divorce, with couples at loggerheads with each other. From the point of view of the child, they would be happier to be in household where the two adults are on good terms, even if they are two males or two females, rather than in a family where the father and mother are fighting each other. Also, from a comparison with the adoption system, there are those who allow same-sex couples to have children. Namely, in regards to adopted children, it is not totally necessary to have two foster-parents, and even one person can become a foster-parent. Because this does not demand that there be both a male and female parent, even if the couple are the same sex, that fact alone does not stand as reason to deny rights to have children.

Moreover, not only from a legal standpoint, various opinions from sociological and psychological viewpoints were also submitted, and as a result, the law was accepted in its existing state.

4. Bill recognizing marriage for all

With the above details in the background, the current bill to recognize marriage for all was submitted. However, according to early opinion polls concerning the issue, the views both for and against were split. Several opinion polls were taken after the submission of the bill, and of those, according to the Ifop poll, 65 percent were in favour with the points of the bill (however, in regard to child adoption, only 52 percent approved.)

But the Catholic Church, which opposed the bill from the outset, didn窶冲 stay quiet, and people from around the country, who also opposed the bill, got together and held fierce demonstrations on a national scale.

At the end of last year, before consideration of the bill, marriages of same-sex couples took place in several municipalities, but in regards to those that were held in the beginning of November just after the submission of the bill, those who applied to have a ceremony in place of marriage before the submission, actually had a ceremony closer to a wedding with the submission of the bill. Also, in other cities, there were also cases of some somewhat disturbing movements in the form of threatening letters being sent in advance of the ceremonies.

Deliberations of the bill began this year, and the first article was passed at the National Assembly on its first reading with a vote of 329 to 229 on February 12. The bill was approved by total 568 members, with 558 casting votes and 10 abstentions.

With the passing of the bill in the National Assembly, the bill was sent to the Senate for deliberation, and discussed by a judging committee set up by the Senate for this law on March 20. These discussions resulted in a 23-21 vote for the bill to be sent to the main senate. Then the marriage for all bill was passed on its first reading in the Senate.

Conclusion

I believe that the day when marriage for all in France will be accepted is getting nearer. All the more for the number of people opposing the bill on a national scale, the fierceness of the demonstrations is on the rise.

Is marriage the bonding of man and woman created by God, or the right of an individual and respecting of their relationships? This issue doesn窶冲 simply stop at being an issue of what marriage is. Can窶冲 it also be said to be a human challenge of God?

Sachiko Rikimaru
Associate Professor of Japanese and French Comparative Family Law, French Private Law System, and Legal French, Faculty of Law, Chuo University
Born in Kanagawa Prefecture
1990 Graduated from the Department of Law, Faculty of Law, Chuo University.
1992 Completed her Master窶冱 program in civil law in the Graduate School of Law, Chuo University.
1992 Assistant in the Faculty of Law, Chuo University.
1995 Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Law, Chuo University.
2007 Associate Professor in the Faculty of Law, Chuo University.
2003 Received Master of Linguistics degree in teaching French as a foreign language (FLE) from Stendhal-Grenoble 3 University in France
Her current research involves French families centered on marriage, divorce and parent-child relationships from the viewpoint of child happiness, and comparative surveys with Japan, and clarifying the ideologies of Jean Domat who exerted a great influence on forming the French Civil Code. She is also conducting research into effective French language learning methods related to the legal field.
As a comparatively recent study, see Rikongo No Ko No Kyosyo Ni Kan Suru France No Kotai Kyosyo (rテゥsidence alternテゥe) Seido Ni Tsuite (Alternative residences in France concerning residence of post-divorce children) Hikakuhozasshi (Comparative law review) 41-1 (1).