Alexa

Longtime couple push gay marriage case in France

 In this Monday Jan. 24, 2011 photo, Corinne Cestino, background, and Sophie Hasslauer, right, and their with children, Merlin, Anatole, Emilie, and V...
 In this Monday Jan. 24, 2011 photo, Corinne Cestino, standing, watches her children, Merlin, Anatole, Emilie, and Virgile, from left, in the kitchen ...
 In this Monday Jan. 24, 2011 photo, Corinne Cestino, right, and Sophie Hasslauer speak to The Associated Press in Val de Vesle, France. The two women...
 In this Monday Jan. 24, 2011 photo, Corinne Cestino, right, and Sophie Hasslauer speak to The Associated Press in Val de Vesle, France. The two women...
 In this Monday Jan. 24, 2011 photo, Corinne Cestino, left, and Sophie Hasslauer, right, are seen with their children Merlin, second left, Emilie, Ana...

France Gay Marriage

In this Monday Jan. 24, 2011 photo, Corinne Cestino, background, and Sophie Hasslauer, right, and their with children, Merlin, Anatole, Emilie, and V...

France Gay Marriage

In this Monday Jan. 24, 2011 photo, Corinne Cestino, standing, watches her children, Merlin, Anatole, Emilie, and Virgile, from left, in the kitchen ...

France Gay Marriage

In this Monday Jan. 24, 2011 photo, Corinne Cestino, right, and Sophie Hasslauer speak to The Associated Press in Val de Vesle, France. The two women...

France Gay Marriage

In this Monday Jan. 24, 2011 photo, Corinne Cestino, right, and Sophie Hasslauer speak to The Associated Press in Val de Vesle, France. The two women...

France Gay Marriage

In this Monday Jan. 24, 2011 photo, Corinne Cestino, left, and Sophie Hasslauer, right, are seen with their children Merlin, second left, Emilie, Ana...

The two women have lived together 15 years, are raising four children together, and already benefit from a French law recognizing their partnership.
Still, for Corinne Cestino and Sophie Hasslauer, it's not marriage. And on Friday, France's Constitutional Council will take up their case demanding the right to wed, a move that could open up the door to gay marriage in France.
The issue exposes a paradox in France: while the country often has an anything-goes attitude to romance and sexuality, it can be conservative with family values. The couple and advocacy group Act Up Paris hope France will soon join EU partners including Spain, Belgium and Netherlands that have legalized same-sex marriage.
"It is not so much about getting married, but about having the right to get married," said Cestino, a pediatrician. "So, that is what we are asking for: Just to be able, like anyone else, to choose to get married or not."
The council, a body nicknamed "The Wise Ones" that includes former Presidents Jacques Chirac and Valery Giscard d'Estaing, will decide on the constitutionality _ or not _ of two articles in the French civil code stipulating that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.
At a hearing on the case last week, a lawyer for Prime Minister Francois Fillon's office argued that the decision is best left to legislators. That's just what the couple's lawyer wants: for the court to force the conservative government to sponsor a bill on gay marriage to send to parliament.
That could make it a potent political issue with France set for both legislative and presidential elections next year. The council, in a statement after last week's hearing, acknowledged the subject is garnering widespread debate at a time of "changing mores" in French society.
Act Up Paris, an advocacy group for both gays and AIDS victims, argues that if the panel rules the law is discriminatory, then mayors could start marrying gay couples right away _ eliminating the need for a new law. But that could make for a messy outcome, with some mayors celebrating gay marriages and others refusing.
French jurisprudence doesn't favor the couple's case. A Green Party mayor in the southwestern town of Begles officiated over a wedding of two gay men in 2004 _ but France's highest court later annulled the marriage.
Hasslauer and Cestino, who are in their 40s, in 2000 entered into a civil union known as the Civil Solidarity Pact _ PACS by its French acronym _ mostly useful for its tax benefit and other financial advantages, said their lawyer Emmanuel Ludot.
Marriage, on the other hand, confers "the responsibility to help each other in times of sickness or financial difficulty, inheritance rights (and) the joint custody of goods _ and that's without talking about the benefit for children, who are what we call 'legitimized by marriage'," he said.
It was dinner time Monday when Hasslauer and Cestino invited in AP Television News to their cozy home in Val-de-Vesle, a village near the Champagne country capital of Reims that they've decorated with potted palms and cheerful geometric rugs. The children _ one son struggling to cut some lasagna _ tucked rustic plaid napkins into their shirt as bibs.
Hasslauer is the natural-birth mother of eldest daughter, Millie, 16, conceived in a previous relationship with a man. Hasslauer's 10-year-old twin boys and Cestino's 6-year-old son were conceived through artificial insemination.
The three boys, conceived with the sperm of anonymous fathers, have only one legal parent _ so if anything happened to Hasslauer or Cestino, those children would become orphans under the law.
"Some people say homosexuals are trying to imitate heterosexuals, but I think it is bizarre, absolutely ridiculous. We are not trying to imitate anyone," said Hasslauer, who is an art teacher. "We're doing what we need to do, that is it. No matter what those people say, we live on the same basis, that's love."
Even if they lose, raising awareness about the plight of gays and lesbians in France is already a sort of victory, Cestino said.
"I think there are quite a few people in our society who do not realize what we are going through, and that we suffer from this lack of rights," she said. "At least, we will have made it public _ it is already a good thing. And it is a step toward making things change."
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Cecile Brisson, Angela Doland and Jamey Keaten in Paris contributed to this report.