The French government has admitted that citizens of 11 countries are excluded from its recent gay marriage legislation.
According to a memo signed by the French Justice Minister, same sex couples cannot marry if one or both partners come from Poland, Morocco, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo, Slovenia, Cambodia, Laos, Tunisia or Algeria.
The memo declares:
“In the case of an intended marriage between two people of the same sex, if one of the spouses is a national of one of these countries, the state registrar shall not solemnise the marriage.”
The restriction may be related to conventions signed by France when former colonies began to gain independence, says law professor Mathias Audit of the Université de Paris Ouest. He told TV channel France 24:
“France has signed particular conventions at the time of decolonisation in the 1960s. These agreements were designed to respect the religious identity of the countries and also to resolve the status of migrant workers or the status of people of French origin who remained in the former colony and wanted to remain under French law. These rules have endured.”
The exclusions were condemned by gay rights activists. Philippe Colomb of campaign group ARDHIS said his organisation had been receiving calls in from multinational couples.
“There’s a French and Algerian couple who have wanted to get married for a long time. They are extremely disappointed and believe that once again they are being denied their rights. This is clearly a breach of the principle of equality – not just for a foreign national, but also for French citizens who cannot marry the person of their choosing.”
ADHIS is now planning to work with other campaigners to change the law. “We know it will be long, but this is unacceptable. We cannot let this continue.”
Meanwhile, Professor Audit believes such couples have grounds of appeal to the French courts or the European Court of Human Rights.
“There are clearly some legal difficulties here, but they are surmountable. France should allow these unions and at the same time affirm its commitment to the principle of equality of citizens in relation to marriage.”
Photo of Paris by JSquish via Wikipedia under a Creative Commons licence