FRANCE, January 31, 2011 ( – France’s Constitutional Council, its highest court for constitution issues, ruled on Friday that the country’s definition of marriage as between one man and one woman is valid under French constitution.

The definition was challenged by two lesbians who conceived children by artificial insemination and wanted to legally call their relationship a “marriage.”  They battled for rights reserved for married couples, including inheritance rights and joint custody.  The case was passed to the Council by the French Court of Cassation in November and the court decision was issued on Friday.

The Council ruled that the “difference in situations of same-sex couples and couples made up of a man and a woman … can justify a difference in treatment concerning family rights.”

The panel’s decision was supported by two articles in France’s civil code “in conformity with the constitution” that define marriage as the union of a man and a woman, reported the Globe and Mail.

“It’s not up to the Constitutional Council to substitute its assessment for that of lawmakers,” wrote the body. 

The court decision doesn’t come as a surprise.  The French judiciary is seen as hesitant to decide on such matters, and few in France believed that the couple was likely to achieve their goal of establishing homosexual “marriage.”

Full text of the ruling in French may be found here.