French leader under fire for gay marriage comments

AFP
AFP21 November 2012
French President Francois Hollande has suggested mayors could opt out of officiating at gay weddings

French President Francois Hollande delivers a speech to the 95th French Mayors congress in Paris. France's main gay lobby has suspended links with the Socialist goverment, saying it felt "betrayed" after Hollande appeared to backtrack slightly on plans to legalise gay marriage and adoption.

France's main gay lobby suspended links with France's socialist government Wednesday, saying it felt "betrayed" after President Francois Hollande appeared to backtrack slightly on plans to legalise gay marriage and adoption.

The Inter-LGBT said it was "suspending all relations with the government" until Hollande explained "what at best can be termed a clumsy act and at worse, treachery."

Hollande stirred controversy on Tuesday by saying that French mayors could opt out of officiating at gay weddings. He invoked the right to "freedom of conscience" after mounting opposition and a huge rally in Paris Saturday against the proposed "marriage for everyone" law.

Hollande's government has come under fire from Catholic groups and the right-wing opposition over the bill.

Mayors were obliged to apply the law if parliament voted to allow gay marriage, said Hollande: but "their options for delegation to deputies could be widened."

The government insisted Wednesday that it was not backtracking on the issue -- a highly divisive one in an officially secular but predominantly Catholic country.

Hollande, speaking at a joint press conference Wednesday with his Italian counterpart Giorgio Napolitano, said: "The law must be applied in all communes."

Justice Minister Christiane Taubira said the right of marriage "unchanged since 1804, will see no infringement.

"Mayors and their deputies officiate at marriages in the name of the state," she said.

Hollande had simply made the point that the task could be performed by a deputy if the mayor did not want to do it, she added.

Several mayors, especially in conservative rural areas, have said they will refuse to marry gay couples.

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