France's Court of Cassation, the country's highest court of appeals, on Tuesday ordered the nation's Constitutional Council [official websites, in French] to rule on whether the country's ban [French Civil Code text] on same-sex marriage conflicts with the constitution [text]. The order comes after a gay French couple challenged the ban in a Reims court, saying it limited their personal freedoms [AFP report]. Rights groups are optimistic that the ban will be overturned, as the trend in French law is moving towards equal rights among gay and straight couples. Last year, a French court ordered the country's government to extend adoption rights to a gay woman [JURIST report]. The court held that French adoption law [Article VIII French Civil Code], which currently allows single people to adopt children but bars same-sex partners from doing so, illegally discriminates [Le Monde report, in French] against homosexuals.
Courts both foreign and domestic are increasingly having to rule on the issue of gay marriage. In the US, judges in Wyoming and California [JURIST reports] have confronted the issue this year. Governments in Argentina, Kenya and Mexico [JURIST reports] are also addressing the issue. In 2007, the French Court of Cassation ruled that same-sex marriages are not valid under French law [JURIST report] and that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. The case arose in 2004 when Stephane Charpin and Bertrand Charpentier were married [JURIST report], after which both a local court and intermediate appeals court ruled that the marriage was invalid. State lawyers argued that it was not an issue for the courts to decide, but rather was a question to be answered by parliament.