On Wednesday, the city of Montpellier was the home of the first same-sex marriage in France’s history. The ceremony administered by a representative of the law dressed in the traditional blue and white and held in Montpellier’s town hall. Gay leaders and activists have flocked to the city, making it necessary to move the ceremony to a special room to accommodate for the 500 guests expected to celebrate the nuptials of Vincent Autin and Bruno Boileau. The ceremony was broadcast live via the city government’s office to spectators around the world, while an increased security presence has been made ready in anticipation of protesters.
Autin and Boileau, who met through an online forum discussing music, jumped at the opportunity to become the country’s first married gay couple. The “Marriage for All” legislation was approved last month and signed into law by President Francois Hollande, allowing France to become the fourteenth country to legalize same sex marriage. This has created controversy in the predominantly Catholic country that is traditionally dead set against the intermingling of church and state. Protesters have taken to the streets by the thousands and just last week a man committed suicide outside of Notre Dame cathedral in protest of the law.
Autin, President of the gay rights group Interpride and Boileau a civil servant, met seven years ago through an internet forum dedicated to singer Christophe Willem, and have since made it their goal to become the first legally married gay couple in the country’s history. When Hollande signed the bill into, the couple immediately began making arrangements for the ceremony, inviting guests, publishing marriage proclamations, and making the usual wedding preparations. Since Autin and Boileau’s application, more than 140 journalists have requested credentials to the ceremony. Montpelier Mayor Helene Mandroux has assured that “It will be a wedding like any other … with the same respect, same serenity, the same dignity.”
Autin and Boileau have become the faces of a movement that has come under considerable criticism in France. The debate on same-sex marriage has been extensive, with over 172 hours of parliamentary debate dedicated to the issue. Advocates in favor of the legislation claim that the law corrects outstanding discrimination against gay and lesbian couples, while advocates against the law claim it is a deterioration of traditional French values. Hundreds of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of Paris over the last few weekends hoping to overturn the legislation. These protests have led to clashes with police that have resulted in almost 300 arrests.
The couple entered the hall to Nat King Cole’s "L.O.V.E." and took their seat in front of the gathered attendees. Following a brief ceremony, the two exchanged vows and signed documents that allowed them to become recognized as the first same-sex marriage in the country’s history. The couple exchanged a brief kiss to the applause of the crowd and greeted their family and friends before Autin and Boileau addressed the crowd. The couple hopes to adopt a child and raise a family in the near future.