LGBT rights in France

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LGBT rights in France
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Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 1791,
age of consent equalized in 1982
Gender identity/expression Transsexual persons allowed to change legal sex
Recognition of
Pacte civil de solidarité ("PACS") since 1999
Same-sex marriage not recognized
Military service Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly
Discrimination protections Sexual orientation protections (see below)

France has traditionally been liberal with regard to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights and this is reflected in the country's legislation.

Former laws against homosexuality

Sodomy laws

Before the French revolution, sodomy was a serious crime. Jean Diot and Bruno Lenoir were the last homosexuals burned to death on July 6, 1750[1]. The first French Revolution decriminalized homosexuality when the Penal Code of 1791 made no mention of same-sex relations in private. This policy on private sexual conduct was kept in the Penal Code of 1810, and followed in nations that adopted the Code. Yet, homosexuality and cross-dressing were widely seen as being immoral, and LGBT people were still subjected to legal harassment under various laws designed public morality and order. Some homosexuals from the regions of Alsace and Lorraine, which were annexed by Nazi Germany in 1940, were persecuted and interned in concentration camps.

Higher age of consent

In the penal code, an age of consent was introduced on April 28, 1832. It was fixed to 11 years for both sexes, raised to 13 years on 1863. On August 6, 1942 The Vichy government introduced a discriminative law in penal code: article 334 (moved to article 331 on 8 February 1945[2] by the Provisional Government of the French Republic) increased age of consent to 21 for homosexual relations and 15 for heterosexual ones. The age of 21 was then lowered to 18 in 1974, which had become the age of legal majority.[3] This law remained valid until August 4, 1982. In 1982, under president François Mitterrand, this law was repealed,[4] despite the vocal opposition of Jean Foyer in the National Assembly.[5]

Indecent exposure

A less known discriminative law was adopted in 1960, inserting into the penal code (article 330, 2nd alinea) a clause that doubled penalty for indecent exposure in case of homosexual activity. This ordonnance[6] concerned the repression of pimping. The clause against homosexuality was adopted due to a wish of Parliament, as follows:

This ordonnance was adopted by the executive after is was authorized by Parliament to take legislative measures against national scourges such as alcoholism. Member of the National assembly Paul Mirguet felt that homosexuality was also a scourge, and thus proposed an sub-amendment, therefore known as the Mirguet amendment, tasking the government to enact measures against homosexuality, which was adopted.[7][8]

Article 330 alinea 2 was repealed in 1980 as part of an act redefining several sexual offenses.[9]

Gender identity/expression

Transsexual persons are allowed to change their legal sex.

Recognition of same-sex relationships

Civil Solidarity Pacts (PACS), a form of registered domestic partnership, were enacted in 1999 for both same-sex and unmarried opposite-sex couples. Couples who enter into a PACS contract are afforded most of the legal protections and responsibilities of marriage. Unlike married couples, they were originally not allowed to file joint tax returns until after 3 years, though this was repealed in 2005, and joint tax returns can now be filed immediately. The right to joint adoption and artificial insemination are also denied to PACS partners ( and are largely restricted, for heterosexual married couples), even though there are proposals to extend PACS rights and make them more similar to marriage.

Discrimination protections

Any discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in employment or service, public or private, has been prohibited since 1985. Gay and lesbian people are free to serve in the Armed Forces.

Hate crime laws

In December 2004, the National Assembly approved legislation which made homophobic or sexist comments illegal. The maximum penalty of a €45,000 fine and/or 12 months imprisonment has been criticized by civil liberty groups such as Reporters Without Borders as a serious infringement on free speech. But the conservative government of President Jacques Chirac pointed to a rise in anti-gay violence as justification for the measure. Ironically, an MP in Chirac's own UMP party, Christian Vanneste, became the first person to be convicted under the law in January 2006 although this conviction was later cancelled by the Cour de cassation after a refused appeal.

LGBT rights movement in France

Some LGBT rights organizations in France include Act Up Paris and SOS Homophobie.

Public opinion

The current mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë, publicly revealed his homosexuality in 1998, before his first election in 2001.

Polls have given mixed results for opinions of homosexuality in France.

In June 2006, an Angus Reid Global Scan poll revealed that 45% of French supported same-sex marriage, while 51% opposed. Additionally, 42% favored allowing "A female couple resorting to artificial insemination in order to have children", while 54% opposed; 41% favored allowing "The adoption of children by a female homosexual couple" (56% opposed); 36% favored allowing "The adoption of children by a homosexual couple (any gender)" (60% opposed); 35% favored allowing "The adoption of children by a male homosexual couple" (62% opposed); and 33% favored allowing "A male couple resorting to theartificial insemination of a woman in order to have children" (while 63% opposed). [10]

In 2006, an Ipsos survey showed much more liberal-seeming results: 62% support same-sex marriage, while 37% were opposed. 55% believed gay and lesbian couples should not have parenting rights, while 44% believe same-sex couples should be able to adopt.[11]

Summary table

Homosexuality legal Yes (since 1791)
Equal age of consent Yes (since August 4, 1982)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment Yes (since 1985)
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services Yes (since 1985)
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) Yes (since 2004)
Same-sex marriage(s) No
Recognition of same-sex couples as de facto couples Yes (since November 15, 1999)
Recognition of same-sex couples as civil partnerships Yes (since November 15, 1999)
Both joint and step adoption by same-sex couples No
Gays allowed to serve openly in the military Yes
Right to change legal gender Yes
Equal access to IVF and surrogacy for all couples and individuals No
MSMs allowed to donate blood No

See also

Further reading

  • Claudina Richards, The Legal Recognition of Same-Sex Couples: The French Perspective, The International and Comparative Law Quarterly, Vol. 51, No. 2 (Apr., 2002), pp. 305-324


External links


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