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).
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid