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2012

  • 7 November 2012 : Draft bill on marriage for same-sex couples : reactions of the religious authorities

A draft bill to open up marriage and adoption to same-sex couples was presented before the Council of Ministers on 7 November 2012 and ought to be considered by parliament during the first quarter of 2013. The draft legislation provides for inserting into the Civil Code an article 143 which reads as follows : "Marriage is contracted between two persons of different sex or the same sex."
The rights and obligations attached to marriage would become identical for homosexual and heterosexual couples. One of the major components of the reform concerns, for example, acknowledgement of the parent-child relationship, adoption henceforth being open to couples of the same sex.

A survey by IFOP published in October 2012 shows that French public opinion is broadly in favour of marriage for homosexual couples (65% of respondents), but more divided on the issue of the right to adoption for same-sex couples (52%).

For their part, religious authorities have spoken out in order to open up the debate and present their stance on the subject :

- Note by the Family and Society Council (Conseil Famille et Société) and the Conference of Bishops of France (Catholic Church). Opening up marriage to same-sex couples ? Let’s open up the debate !
"An evolution in family law is always possible. But rather than giving in to pressure from various groups, France would be doing the right thing in creating true social debate and seeking an original solution which recognizes the request for recognition made by homosexual people without threatening the anthropological foundations of society."

- Statement by the Council of the Protestant Federation of France about "marriage for all"
"Whilst encouraging its members to respectfully welcome homosexual people, the Protestant Federation of France - without contesting the government’s legislative responsibilities - considers that the current project of "marriage for all" perturbs social symbolism and does not favour the structuring of the family. It is not an issue of morality here, but one of anthropology and symbols."

- Press release by the National Council of Evangelical Churches of France (CNEF), Draft bill on marriage and adoption : the CNEF appeals to parliamentarians
"If such a reform were to see the light of day, it would allow the emergence of a disconnected society, symbolically and practically, from natural anthropological and biological realities.’’ And it would commit future generations, i.e. the nation’s future. The CNEF is also requesting a general assembly and is calling on parliamentarians of all political persuasions to take account of what is at stake and not to legislate hastily or under pressure from one minority."

- Press release by the Assembly of Orthodox Bishops of France (AEOF)
"(…) the traditional and fundamental notion of marriage - with its own terminology - must be preserved, in order to mark a clear distinction between civil union and the vocation of the heterosexual couple."

- Essay by Gilles Bernheim, Chief Rabbi of France, Gay marriage, gay parenting and adoption : what we often forget to say (Mariage homosexuel, homoparentalité et adoption : Ce que l’on oublie souvent de dire)

- Interview in the Le Monde newspaper with Joël Mergui, President of the Jewish Central Consistory of France

- Stance taken by the French Council of the Muslim Faith : About the draft legislation "marriage for all"
"The number of homosexual couples affected by this draft bill is very small, so we are wondering about the desirability of introducing, via its adoption, a major evolution in life in society with the risk of igniting passionate, divisive debate at a time when we need to concentrate efforts on the priorities and challenges facing our country at this difficult time of major economic and social crisis."

  • 5 July 2012 : France must repay 4.6 million euros to the French branch of the Jehovah’s witnesses

In 1995, the French branch of the Jehovah’s Witnesses association was subject to a tax audit and was summoned to declare the donations that it had received from 1993 to 1996. In May 1998, the association was notified of arrears amounting to around 45 million euros (about 23 million euros principal and 22 million euros in penalties and interest for late payment).

In its judgment of 30 June 2011 (no. 8916/05), the European Court of Human Rights ruled that this taxation had effectively cut off the vital resources of the association, which was no longer able to guarantee in concrete terms that their followers could practise their religion freely. Moreover, the Court observed that the application of tax law (here Article 757 of the General Tax Code) had made taxation of manual donations dependent on performing tax audits, which necessarily involved an element of randomness and therefore unpredictability in applying the tax law : there was therefore "non-statutory" interference in exercising rights guaranteed by Article 9 of the Convention.

Under Article 41 of the Convention, the applicant filed a claim for just satisfaction pursuant to which (judgment of 5 July 2012) the Court said that the French State must reimburse the applicant, within three months from the day on which the judgment became final, the amount unduly paid to the Public Treasury, i.e. 4,590,295 euros plus 55,000 euros costs.

3 décembre 2012