France's highest court ruled on Friday that the country's mayors cannot refuse to officiate at same-sex marriages, rejecting a bid by a group of mayors who claimed gay marriage went against their moral or religious beliefs.
The Constitutional Council's ruling followed an appeal by mayors and registrars opposed to France’s controversial bill legalising same-sex marriages, which came into effect in May this year.
They argued that the same-sex marriage bill should have included a “freedom of conscience” clause, giving officiators the right not to carry out same-sex marriages if it conflicts with their personal religious or moral beliefs. The lack of such a clause in the bill goes against the French constitution, they claim.
But the Council, France’s highest legal authority, rejected this argument in its ruling on Friday morning.
“The Council judged that, in view of the functions of a state official in the officiating of a marriage, the legislation does not violate their freedom of conscience,” the Council said in a statement.
‘A political decision’
Jean-Michel Colo, the Mayor of Arcangues in southwest France who hit headlines in June when he became the first official to refuse to marry a gay couple, denounced the Council’s decision.
“The Constitutional Council has been manipulated by politics. It is a political decision,” he told AFP.
Colo said that the group of mayors would now take their case to the European Court of Human Rights.
Meanwhile, the group Manif Pour Tous, which has been at the forefront of protests against the legalisation of same-sex marriage, said it supports “all the mayors who courageously dare to assert their right to freedom of conscience”.
The organisation says a petition it launched in defence of the right of mayors not to officiate at gay weddings has collected more than 80,000 signatures.
In France, marriages can only be made official by state authorities, though many couples also celebrate religious weddings.