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

China’s Influence Grows With New Infrastructure Bank

Multibillion-dollar China-backed and BRICS-supported Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank seen as possible challenger to such lenders as IMF, World Bank More

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

Rabbi Michel Serfaty makes the rounds in his friendship bus to encourage dialogue and break down barriers between the two groups More

Post-deal Iran Leaders Need 'Economic Momentum' to Solidify

Economists say deal could inject more than $100 billion into coffers - not enough to entirely rescue ailing economy - but maybe adequate to create 'economic momentum' 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.
US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impacti
X
Michael Bowman
June 28, 2015 10:05 PM
Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Chemical-Sniffing Technology Fights Australia's Graffiti Vandals

Cities and towns all over the world spend huge amounts of resources battling graffiti writers who deface buildings, public transport vehicles and even monuments. Authorities in Sydney, Australia, hope a new chemical-sniffing technology finally will stop vandals from scribbling on walls in the passenger areas of commuter trains. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Cambodia Struggling to Curb Child Labor

Earlier this year a United Nations report found 10 percent of Cambodian children aged 7-14 are working – one of the highest rates in the region – and said one in four children in that age bracket are forced to quit school to help their families. Although the child labor rate has dropped over the past decade, Cambodia has a lot more to do – including keeping more children in school. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

VOA Blogs