It’s been a big weekend for civil rights here in France. If you’ve followed our news lately, you’re certainly familiar with the movement known as “Mariage pour tous” (“Marriage for All”). It’s the popular name for a legislative initiative to open marriage to same-sex couples and extend adoption rights to us. After months of vigorous debate and sometimes violent opposition, it was adopted this spring by the National Assembly and the Senate. Opponents immediately challenged the law’s constitutionality before the French Constitutional Council — the equivalent of the Supreme Court in the United States — and we waited for the ruling with a mix of hope and anxiety.
On Friday afternoon, we received the momentous news: the Constitutional Council had validated the law in its entirety! The French government was finally going to recognize our marriage! The only question that remained was what we needed to do administratively to get that done. I went online and did some quick research on a government website, but my initial elation started to evaporate. Apparently, for the French government to recognize a French citizen’s marriage in a foreign jurisdiction, the couple had to have undertaken an entire administrative process before the marriage was performed, including publication of the banns in France and coordination with the French consulate in the foreign jurisdiction. We hadn’t done any of that back in 2010, of course, because … well … we couldn’t have done it. The city hall in La Courneuve would have refused to publish the banns and the consulate would have refused to accept our paperwork.
So, what did that mean for us?
Well, the marvelous mix of romanticism and pragmatism that he is, Michel calmly told me not to fret. (He knows me so well!) If the French bureaucratic powers refused to recognize our marriage or wanted to relegate it to some administrative limbo, we’d just get remarried in France. “I would marry you every day for the rest of our lives, and in every country, if that’s what it would take for us to be together,” he said. (I’ve definitely got a keeper, right?) The former lawyer in me started to identify all the potential problems with that solution, but I tried to keep a positive outlook and — after all — the idea of a French civil wedding officiated by our mayor wearing a tricolor sash did sound pretty cool.
As it turns out, we probably won’t have to get remarried. The regulations I read Friday evening obviously hadn’t been updated yet to take into account the impact of the new law, which makes it pretty clear that our marriage will be recognized:
“The marriage between persons of the same sex contracted before the entry into force of the present law is recognized in France, as it pertains to spouses and children, provided that it complies with articles 144, 146, 166-1, 147, 161, 162, 163, 180 and 191 of the civil code. It can be transcribed under the conditions enumerated in articles 171-5 and 171-7 of the same code. It takes effect with regard to third parties from the date of transcription.” — Loi n°2013-404 du 17 mai 2013 – Article 21
I haven’t seen updated regulations yet, but the proposed legislation recognized cases like ours, where a French citizen married a same-sex partner in a foreign jurisdiction but couldn’t carry out the administrative process required under current regulations to have the marriage recognized in France. As a result, the proposed legislation called for a specific procedure whereby such marriages will be officially recognized. So, to make a long story short, while we still don’t know exactly what we have to do next — we’ll be contacting City Hall on Tuesday morning to find out — one thing is clear: the wedding we celebrated almost three years ago in Washington will soon be recognized here, too. And if we don’t get to have a French civil wedding after all, we can still have a bohemian one next spring in a meadow full of wildflowers … to celebrate one more time the beautiful marriage we already have.
P.S. — Read what happened next!
© 2013 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved