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European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, Franceg215 /

June 10, 2016 (FAFCE) — Reserving marriage to a man and a woman is not discriminatory. This was confirmed by a ruling of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) published yesterday. In the case Chapin and Charpentier v. France (known in France as the “mariage de Bègles”) the Court unanimously found that Article 12 (right to marry), taken together with Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination), and Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life), taken together with Article 14, were not violated. This means that the French State, preventing two men from marrying (at a moment where the law did not provide this possibility), did not violate the European Convention for Human Rights.

As explained by the Registrar of the Court, “In May 2004 Mr Chapin and Mr Charpentier submitted a marriage application to the civil registry department of Bègles municipal council. The municipal civil registrar published the banns of marriage. The public prosecutor at the Bordeaux tribunal de grande instance served notice of his objection to the marriage on the Bègles municipal civil registrar and on Mr Chapin and Mr Charpentier. Despite the objection, the mayor of Bègles performed the marriage ceremony and made an entry to that effect in the register of births, marriages and deaths”. Having been dismissed at every stage of the French judicial system, the plaintiffs appealed to the ECtHR, contending “that they had been discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation”.

Yesterday the ECtHR confirmed the decision of the French Supreme Court (Cour de Cassation), affirming that there is no discrimination if the State denies the right to marry to two adults of the same sex. “This is good news, as it shows that the competence of the States that have ratified the European Convention on Human Rights must be respected on matters related to family and marriage” says Antoine Renard, President of FAFCE, the European Federation of Catholic Family Associations. “We welcome the fact that this time the Convention has not been the object of a subjective interpretation and encourage all National and International institutions to take this decision into account: marriage, i.e. the union between a woman and a man in view of founding a family, is a unique institution that must be protected”. 

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This decision comes at a historical moment as some European countries are denaturing the institution of marriage, in many cases under strong international pressure which is not justified by any treaty or agreement. At the same time other countries enshrine the definition of marriage in their Constitutions as the union of a woman and a man. A European Citizens' Initiative, called Mum, Dad & Kids, has also started within the European Union in order to preserve the independence of Member States in the field of family law.   

Reprinted with permission from FAFCE.