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

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

Report: US to Sail Warships Near Disputed S. China Sea Islands

Move will signal nonrecognition of Chinese territorial claims over area, Financial Times reports, citing senior US official More

Study Describes Ancient Deltas, Lakes on Mars

Research builds on recent NASA announcement that water flows on red planet today More

This forum has been closed.
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.
Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanoni
John Owens
October 08, 2015 7:32 PM
Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs