France's Constitutional Council [official website, in French] on Friday ruled [opinion, text, in French] that the country's same-sex marriage ban [French Civil Code text] does not violate the constitution [text]. The council emphasized it may only interpret existing laws under the constitution, but that the legislature has the power to make new laws allowing gay marriage. A lawyer for the gay couple who brought the complaint said that the issue has been passed to the politicians [AP report], and that he remains optimistic that the government may yet legalize gay marriage. Corinne Cestino and Sophie Hasslauer, who have lived together for 15 years and have four children, sought for the right to marry and challenged the ban in a Reims court, saying it limited their personal freedoms [AFP report]. The Court of Cassation [official website, in French], the country's highest court of appeals, in November ordered the Constitutional Council to rule on the constitutionality [JURIST report] of the law.
Both foreign and domestic courts are increasingly having to rule on the issue of gay marriage. In the US, judges in Wisconsin, California and Texas [JURIST reports] confronted the issue last year. Governments in Mexico, Kenya, Argentina, Portugal and Germany [JURIST reports] are also addressing the issue. In 2007, the French Court of Cassation ruled that same-sex marriages were 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.