First French gay marriage in tense ambience

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Saying ‘oui’:Vincent Autin (left) and Bruno Boileau during their marriage in Montpellier, France on Wednesday.— PHOTO: AFP
Saying ‘oui’:Vincent Autin (left) and Bruno Boileau during their marriage in Montpellier, France on Wednesday.— PHOTO: AFP

In a historic ceremony broadcast live on French television, the first gay couple to marry in France said “oui,” then sealed the deal with a lengthy and very public kiss.

The politically charged ceremony was held under tight police surveillance a stark reminder of the months of bruising opposition to the new gay marriage law that French lawmakers passed earlier this month.

Though the marriage itself went undisrupted, outside the city hall it was not trouble-free. A plainclothes policeman dragged back one protester on Wednesday who shouted threats and tried to approach the couple as they were being escorted into the building, before the ceremony. Police also used tear gas to push back a small group of demonstrators who gathered behind the city hall.

“Even if we have passed the hurdle of equality, there are still more battles to fight... But for now, it’s a moment for festivity, for love,” said Vincent Autin after exchanging vows with Bruno Boileau. Some cried, others smiled as Frank Sinatra’s hit “Love and Marriage” blasted out, marking them tying the knot.

The two men then walked hand-in-hand to the city hall balcony to wave to well-wishers alongside Montpellier Mayor Helene Mandroux, who officiated at the ceremony. Smiling proudly, Mr. Mandroux called the marriage a “historic moment” and “a stage in the modernisation of our country”.

The two men, who will adopt the names “Messieurs Bruno et Vincent Boileau-Autin,” were holding a separate, private ceremony later on Wednesday for close friends and family.

“Many people have been waiting for this law on marriage and adoption. Now, it’s done. Many people are going to be doing as we did, and celebrating their unions... We are very pleased and honoured,” said Mr. Boileau.

It is not clear yet when the first gay adoption will take place.

News of the marriage will not be welcomed in every corner of France. Just last Sunday, tens of thousands of people protested fiercely in Paris against the gay marriage law, demonstrations that ended with riot police shooting tear gas.

A plan to legalise same-sex marriage and allow gay couples to adopt was a liberal cornerstone of Socialist Francois Hollande’s election manifesto last year. It initially looked like a shoo-in for the President since the measures were supported by a majority of the country and an easy way to break with his conservative predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy.

But the issue became a touchstone as Mr. Hollande’s popularity sunk to unprecedented lows, largely over France’s ailing economy. The law became a political hot potato that exposed bitter divisions between urban France, where homosexuality is widely accepted, and the Catholic heartland where conservative attitudes hold sway. — AP



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