News / Europe

Vincent, Bruno to Wed, a First in France

Same-sex couple exchange wedding band, (File photo).
Same-sex couple exchange wedding band, (File photo).
Reuters
Two men will marry in the southern French city of Montpellier on Wednesday, the first same-sex couple to wed in France under a reform that has stoked some of the fiercest street protests in the country in decades.
 
Vincent Aubin and Bruno Boileau - together since they hit it off six years ago discussing music on an online forum - will exchange vows in the city hall before the mayor, relatives and friends, and as many other well-wishers as can be crammed in.
 
“We hope it'll be forever, but if ever it ends, we'll be equal to any other married couple in that mess,” quipped Aubin in one of a blitz of local media interviews before the big day.
 
Despite strong support for the reform in Montpellier, which boasts of being France's most gay-friendly town, officials ditched plans to broadcast the ceremony live on a giant TV screen in the square outside over fears hardline opponents could sour the proceedings.
 
Unwilling to turn the square in front of the city hall into a fenced-off, high-security zone, the event will instead be beamed live online to the city council's website.
 
“It's a stressful time for Victor and Bruno. There are people who will try to mark this symbolic day with words of hate,” said Elodie Brun, a coordinator at the local Gay Pride Association, which Aubin heads.
 
Brun will be a witness to the nuptials, set for 5:30 p.m. (1530 GMT), and will sign the first ever marriage registry entry for two people of the same sex in a nation predominantly Roman Catholic but fiercely attached to separating church and state.
 
Backed by a slim majority of French and feted by gay men and lesbians when it came into force this month, a law making France the 14th country to allow same-sex marriage has triggered street protests by conservatives, Catholics and extreme right-wingers.
 
Frigide Barjot, a pink-clad comedian who leads the anti-gay marriage movement, has urged her supporters to stay away from Wednesday's wedding and expressed concern at right-wingers who have hurled bricks, bottles and firecrackers during marches. On Sunday, a massive march in Paris was marred by violence.
 
“I forbid militants from going to protest in Montpellier,” Barjot told Reuters TV after hardliners in motorcycle helmets beat up a press photographer at a march against the reform in Paris on Sunday.
 
“You don't protest against people who love each other - otherwise this movement becomes homophobic,” she said.
 
Security
 
French Interior Minister Manuel Valls pledged to toughen penalties for homophobic behavior, citing an increase in the number of threats against gay people on far-right forums online.
 
“Why do we need to toughen security? Because there are threats,” he told i-Tele news TV. “It's likely that we'll have to harden penalties for homophobic speech and behavior by law.”
 
Organizers of the wedding in Montpellier, a bohemian city with a medieval university, are taking no chances. Between 50 and 100 police and gendarmes were deployed and ready to cordon off any potential protests.
 
A few dozen members of the public will be let in to the 500-seat function room alongside invited guests and dozens of journalists for the wedding of the year in Montpellier's futuristic new city hall, built in blue glass.
 
“We'll do all the security checks we can,” said Brun. “Though at the end of the day we can't prevent somebody getting inside and shouting something in the middle of the ceremony.”
 
Aubin, 40, and Boileau, 29, were the first gay couple to apply to marry as Socialist President Francois Hollande was pushing through the law granting equal marriage and adoption rights that go beyond existing rules for civil partnerships.
 
Aubin proposed by phoning Boileau at work in September in front of city officials who had just announced that Montpellier would host the first gay wedding. Boileau, put publicly on the spot via speakerphone, was taken by surprise. But he said yes.
 
Since then, rallies that are partly fuelled by anger at the government over other issues like the economy appear to have eroded support for the gay marriage law; it now stands at 53 percent, with 47 percent opposed, reflecting a deep national division, particularly over the adoption rights it includes.
 
Last week, one opponent of gay marriage shot himself dead at the altar of Paris's Notre Dame Cathedral and on Sunday hundreds of thousands marched in the capital to demand the law's repeal.
 
That evening, the jury at the Cannes Film Festival, along France's Mediterranean coast from Montpellier, handed top prize to an explicit, taboo-shattering love story between two women.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid counter-terror intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid