News / Europe

Frenchman Divided Over France's Gay Marriage Debate

Lisa Bryant
France soon will follow more than half a dozen European countries in recognizing gay marriage. The lower house of parliament approved the legislation on Tuesday. Passage by the Senate is not in doubt, since the governing Socialists, who are pro-gay marriage, control parliament. The issue has stirred up surprisingly fierce discord, though, in this nominally Catholic - but staunchly secular - nation. One French citizen from the Brittany village of Ereac has taken a surprising stance.

Elie Geffray straddles both sides of France's gay marriage divide. As a retired Roman Catholic priest who still conducts masses and other religious events, he obeys a church that opposes the unions.

Geffray also is the mayor of Ereac, however, a farming village deep in Brittany's heartland. And when gay weddings and adoptions become legal here, as most expect, he is willing to perform civil ceremonies for couples who want them, although he will not marry them in church.

Geffray said he will abide by the laws of the two institutions he belongs to - the French Republic and the Catholic Church. But he said he also believes the time has come to recognize homosexuals, and that means recognizing their rights.

Divisive issue

Gay marriage has bitterly divided France. Battles for and against the unions are playing out on the streets and in politics. Polls indicate the majority of French are in support.

But in recent weeks, tens of  thousands of opponents - like 19-year-old Elenore Demacebu - have participated in protests in Paris.

"I'm here because I think it's very important to defend marriage between a man and a woman. This is absolutely necessary for children, because they need a father and a mother," she said.

Conversations at the Ereac bar mostly concern the weather and farming, not gay marriage. Few people here go to church. But Geffray's views, and his dual roles as mayor and priest, have drawn media attention. The man most people here just call "Elie" has become something of a local celebrity.

Separation of church, state

Factory worker Philippe Landais, 32,  is Geffray's neighbor. He has traditional views about marriage.

Still, Landais said he respects Geffray. He thinks people here will eventually accept the idea of same-sex weddings.

But bar owner Cecile Gastine said Ereac is a conservative community.

"We are in the country and they don't know. They have never met.. gay people. In big towns, it's normal to see gay people. Not in [the] country," said Gastine.

Geffray said that most Ereac residents do not say much to him about gay marriage, probably because they are against it. But he said he has received many letters of support from across France - along with negative ones. He writes back to critics who seem open to discussion, including the local bishop, to explain his views.

Geffray said that if gay marriage is sanctioned, it suggests the French state is more open to homosexuals than the church. That troubles him. With the Catholic church searching for a new pope to replace Benedict XVI, that may change. For now, gay couples who want a civil ceremony can head to Ereac.

You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs