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France

France to celebrate first gay marriage but opposition lives on

media Vincent Autin (2nd L) and Bruno Boileau (centre) at a press conference with families in Montpellier Tuesday AFP

France’s first same-sex wedding takes place in the southern city of Montpellier on Wednesday. But some right-wing mayors say they will refuse to conduct these marriages.

The mainstream right-wing UMP joined Catholic traditionalists and far-right groups in campaigning against the bill and many continue their opposition after it has become law.

Several UMP mayors have said they will refuse to officiate same-sex marriages.

Jacques Remiller, the mayor of Vienne, in south-eastern France, says he will delegate gay marriages to deputy mayors who are willing, or if there are no volunteers, to Socialist members of his administration.

“For me, marriage is a man and a woman and children,” he told RFI. “If a same-sex couple wants to get married, I’ll ask for volunteers at city hall and they’ll do it. We will fulfil our public duties, even in Vienne.”

A couple could take legal action against a mayor who refuses to marry them, leading to a possible prison sentence of up to three years, a fine of up to 45,000 euros and even removal from office.

In the more gay-friendly southern city of Montepellier, Socialist mayor Hélène Mandroux will marry the country’s first gay couple this evening - 40-year-old Vincent Autin and 30-year-old Bruno Boileau, who have been together for five years.

Six hundred people are expected to show up, including 130 journalists, and government spokesperson and Minister for Women’s rights Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, who says she’ll be there not on official business, but because the couple are personal friends.

“I don’t know if this wedding will have a political effect,” Autin, a gay rights activist, said on Tuesday. “In any case, in one sense the wedding is a thank-you.

”All over France we have worked to try to be as informative as possible. We’ve all demonstrated, you’ll have noticed, with great dignity. So yes, this is a thank-you wedding. This is marriage for all, equality for all.”

The wedding will be "more than symbolic", France's Families Minister Dominique Bertinotti told RFI Wednesday, but such ceremonies will soon become banal, she added.

Despite early reports that she would, Bertinotti will not attend the marriage because "Marriage is a private act."

Between 50 and 100 police officers will surround City Hall to make sure opponents do not disrupt the ceremony and a mobile unit will be on call.

Dozens of people were detained by police after violence on the fringes of an anti-gay marriage protest on Sunday.

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