France Holds the Line on Marriage, but Is That Enough?

by William C. Duncan

The New York Times ran an interesting story today about the prevalence of the Pacte Civil de Solidarite as an alternative to marriage for couples who would otherwise marry. The article suggests that the status was originally created for same-sex couples but included opposite-sex couples and has been popular with the latter. This is not entirely surprising, since the status carries significant benefits (the article talks about a couple who got a PACS to avoid being separated by government employment) with very little obligation (ending a PACS does not require even appearing before a judge).

One feels sympathy for the woman quoted at the end of the story who “hopes” that her PACS will lead to marriage.

It’s interesting that so little attention has been paid to the fact that France has held the line on the definition of marriage even though, as the article notes, the country is very secular in its legal regime. A Parliamentary Commission in 2006 explained “the sex-difference condition constitutes an essential component of marriage with regard to marriage’s filiation aspects” and that the institution of “marriage is inconceivable absent the idea of filiation” which  “corresponds to a biological reality — the infertility of same-sex couples — and to the vital need to construct an identity for the child necessarily resulting from the union of a man and a woman.”

A couple of states (Nevada, D.C., and the Illinois bill awaiting the governor’s signature) in the U.S. have started down a similar road by creating marriage-alternative statuses for both same- and opposite-sex couples. This article sheds interesting light on where that road leads.

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