First gay couple wed in France amid tight security

  • Published
Media caption,

The moment Vincent Austin and Bruno Boileau said "oui" at Montpellier city hall

Two men have become the first gay couple to wed in France, just days after President Francois Hollande signed the same-sex marriage bill into law.

Vincent Autin and Bruno Boileau said "oui" in the southern city of Montpellier amid tight security.

Mr Hollande had warned he would not accept any disruption to the ceremony.

The new legislation has proved controversial and sparked violent protests.

The anti-gay-marriage lobby, backed by the Catholic Church and conservative opposition, argues the bill undermines an essential building block of society.

The ceremony was broadcast live on French TV.

The Socialist mayor of Montpellier, Helene Mandroux, conducted the ceremony, announcing "I now pronounce you united in marriage."

Her announcement was met with applause from the guests, as Frank Sinatra's 'Love and Marriage' was played.

Earlier in the ceremony, Ms Mandroux said marriage was about "the same rights for everybody".

The law legalising gay marriage was "a stage in the modernisation of our country", she added.

Mr Autin made a short speech after the ceremony thanking supporters. He frequently broke down in tears, reports AFP. "Love yourselves, let's love ourselves, because it's important," he said.

Media caption,

Montpellier residents express their view on the wedding

Extra security

Mr Autin, a 40-year-old gay rights activist, met his 30-year-old partner in 2006.

Some 600 guests were invited and 150 media crews were accredited for the ceremony, the BBC's Christian Fraser, in Paris, reports.

Several businesses and well-wishers sent wedding presents to the couple.

Extra police were drafted in amid fears the extreme-right might also attend, our correspondent added.

On Sunday, at least 150,000 demonstrators took to the streets of Paris to denounce the same-sex marriage bill, which was signed into law on 18 May.

Earlier, the Constitutional Council ruled that same-sex marriage "did not run contrary to any constitutional principles," and that it did not infringe on "basic rights or liberties or national sovereignty".

Some officials indicated they had objections to carrying out gay wedding ceremonies.

"I will find a balance between freedom of conscience and breaking the law," said Philippe Brillault, the Mayor of Le Chesnay in western Paris.

"We will retain our freedom while respecting the law - and that is in no way homophobic. And I will delegate any marriage to a socialist councillor who has agreed to conduct them."

But it is not clear what will happen if, in smaller communes, all officials are against gay marriage and refuse to take part, observers say.

Mr Hollande and his governing Socialist Party have made the legislation their flagship social reform since being elected a year ago.

Opinion polls have suggested that about 55-60% of French people support gay marriage, but only about 50% approve of gay adoption.

France is now the 14th country to legalise gay marriage after New Zealand last month.

It is also the ninth country in Europe to allow same-sex marriage after legalisation in the traditionally liberal Netherlands and Scandinavia, but also in strongly Catholic Portugal and Spain. Legislation is also moving through the UK Parliament.