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

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    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.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora