France Constitutional Council rejects 'conscience clause' for same-sex marriage laws

[JURIST] France's Constitutional Council [official website, in French] ruled [decision, in French] Friday that the country's mayors cannot refuse to officiate same-sex marriages even if participation would be against their moral and religious beliefs, rejecting [press release] the argument that the French Constitution [text, PDF] requires the addition of a proposed "conscience clause." Seven French mayors argued unsuccessfully that the "freedom of conscience" provision in the constitution requires the inclusion of a similar conscience clause in the May 17 Act [text, in French] extending marriage rights to same-sex couples. The court rejected this argument, however, stating that the interests of the proper functioning of public service and the neutrality of public officials are vital and that officials are not entitled to use their disagreement with the law to refuse to perform their legally prescribed duties. The court also ruled that the functions performed by officials in same-sex marriages were not sufficiently involved to constitute a violation of their freedom of conscience. This issue has been hotly contested in French politics, the French organization La Manif Pour Tous [advocacy website] collected more than 80,000 signatures in favor of the mayor's right to a freedom of conscience clause.

In spite of France's recent legalization of same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder], there are still a number of issues to be resolved regarding its implementation, particularly in the area of conflicts of law [JURIST op-ed]. French President Francois Hollande [official website, in French] gave final approval [JURIST report] in May to the legislation legalizing same-sex marriage and establishing the right of same-sex couples to adopt. Although France's Union for a Popular Movement party challenged the law, the French Constitutional Court rejected the challenge [JURIST report] in May. France's Parliament gave final approval of the legislation [JURIST report] in April. Friday's ruling marks something of a turnaround for the French Constitutional Council, which in 2011 issued [JURIST report] a ruling upholding a national ban on same sex marriage.

 

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