France has traditionally been fairly tolerant in matters of private morality including homosexuality and this is reflected in the country's legislation.
Sodomy and age of consent laws
Before the French revolution, sodomy was a serious crime handled by the religious courts. The first French Revolution abolished the religious courts and the subsequent Penal Code of 1791 made no mention of sexual relations between consenting adults in private. This policy on private sexual conduct was kept in the Napoleonic Code of 1810, though courts occasionally prosecuted homosexuals on other incriminations and law enforcement forces at times harassed them.
Homosexuals were persecuted and interned in concentration camps during the occupation of France by Nazi Germany.
In 1945 the age of consent for heterosexuality was raised from 13 to 15. In 1974 the age of consent for homosexuality was lowered from 21 to 18, and in 1982 the age of consent for homosexual and heterosexual conduct was equalized at 15.
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.
Recognition of same sex couples
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 Unlike married couples, they are not allowed to file joint tax returns until after 3 years, even though this is repealed as of 2005, and joint tax returns can be filed immediately. The right to joint adoption and artificial insemination are also denied to PACS partners ( and are largely restricted, for heterosexual married couple), even though there are proposal to extent PACS rights and make them more similar to marriage.
There are large gay and lesbian communities in the cities, particularly in the Paris metropolitan area. Although homosexuality is perhaps not as well tolerated in France as in Spain, Scandinavia, and the Benelux nations, surveys of the French public reveal a considerable shift in attitudes comparable to other Western European nations. As of 2001, 55% of the French consider homosexuality "an acceptable lifestyle." The current mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë, is gay.
In 2006, an Ipsos survey shows that 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.
- "Le Marais: The Indifferent Ghetto." Article about the gay neighborhood, Le Marais, in Paris.
- "Alors, are we 'queer'yet." Article about the reception of the word queer in France.
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