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First French gay wedding set for June -- Mayor
Updated: 2004-04-23 09:01

A leading Green politician said on Thursday he would conduct the first same-sex wedding in France this June, a move likely to be opposed by religious leaders in the traditionally Catholic country.

Noel Mamere said he would unite two gay men living in a district of Begles, a suburb of the southwestern city of Bordeaux, of which he is mayor.

In France, couples must undergo a civil wedding conducted by their local mayor for their union to be legal.

"There's nothing extraordinary about marrying two people of the same sex in the European Union, because Belgium, Sweden and the Netherlands have done it already and the new Spanish prime minister...has put it in his political program," Mamere said.

"(Homosexuals) are the last category of French people who are banned from getting married," he said, adding there was nothing in French law to ban such unions.

Civil unions between same-sex partners have been legal in France since 2000, but gay lobby groups say these fall short of legal marriages as they do not come with benefits such as adoption rights or the same fiscal advantages.

If the wedding goes ahead it would come just two months before a visit by Pope John Paul, head of the world's one billion Catholics and a fierce opponent of same-sex unions.

The Vatican confirmed on Thursday that the pope would travel to the pilgrimage shrine at Lourdes, in southern France, to pray to the Virgin Mary.

The visit would mark the 150th anniversary of the Church doctrine commonly referred to as the immaculate conception, which states that the mother of Jesus Christ was born free of original sin.

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