LGBT rights in France
|Status||Legal since 1791,|
age of consent (re)equalised in 1982
|Gender||Transgender people allowed to change legal gender without surgery|
|Military||LGBT people allowed to serve openly|
|Discrimination||Sexual orientation and gender identity protections (see below)|
|Recognition of relationships||Civil Solidarity Pact since 1999/2009 |
Same-sex marriage since 2013
|Adoption||LGBT individuals and same-sex couples allowed to adopt|
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) rights in France have been seen as traditionally liberal. Although same-sex sexual activity was a capital crime that often resulted in the death penalty during the Ancien Régime, all sodomy laws were repealed in 1791 during the French Revolution. However, a lesser known indecent exposure law that often targeted homosexuals was introduced in 1960 before being repealed twenty years later.
The age of consent for same-sex sexual activity was altered more than once before being equalised in 1982 under then–President of France François Mitterrand. After granting same-sex couples domestic partnership benefits known as the civil solidarity pact, France became the thirteenth country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage in 2013. Laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity were enacted in 1985 and 2012, respectively. In 2009, France became the first country in the world to declassify transgenderism as a mental illness. Additionally, since 2017, transgender people have been allowed to change their legal gender without undergoing surgery or receiving any medical diagnosis.
France has frequently been named one of the most gay friendly countries in the world. Recent polls have indicated that a majority of the French support same-sex marriage and in 2013, another poll indicated that 77% of the French population believed homosexuality should be accepted by society, one of the highest in the 39 countries polled. Paris has been named by many publications as one of the most gay friendly cities in the world, with Le Marais, Quartier Pigalle and Bois de Boulogne being said to have a thriving LGBT community and nightlife.
- 1 Law regarding same-sex sexual activity
- 2 Recognition of same-sex relationships
- 3 Adoption and parenting
- 4 Discrimination protections
- 5 Hate crime laws
- 6 Gender identity and expression
- 7 Intersex rights
- 8 Military service
- 9 Blood donation
- 10 LGBT rights movement in France
- 11 Public opinion
- 12 Overseas departments and territories
- 13 Summary table
- 14 See also
- 15 References
- 16 Further reading
Law regarding same-sex sexual activity
Before the French Revolution, sodomy was a serious crime. Jean Diot and Bruno Lenoir were the last homosexuals burned to death on 6 July 1750. The first French Revolution decriminalised 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 and French colonies that adopted the Code. Still, homosexuality and cross-dressing were widely seen as being immoral, and LGBT people were still subjected to legal harassment under various laws concerning 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
An age of consent was introduced on 28 April 1832. It was fixed to 11 years for both sexes, and later raised to 13 years in 1863. On 6 August 1942, the Vichy Government introduced a discriminative law in the Penal Code: article 334 (moved to article 331 on 8 February 1945 by the Provisional Government of the French Republic) increased the 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. This law remained valid until 4 August 1982, when it was repealed under President François Mitterrand to equalise the age of consent at 15 years of age, despite the vocal opposition of Jean Foyer in the French National Assembly.
A less known discriminative law was adopted in 1960, inserting into the Penal Code (article 330, 2nd alinea) a clause that doubled the penalty for indecent exposure for homosexual activity. This ordonnance was intended to repress pimping. The clause against homosexuality was adopted due to a wish of Parliament, as follows:
This ordonnance was adopted by the executive after it was authorised by Parliament to take legislative measures against national scourges such as alcoholism. Paul Mirguet, a Member of the National Assembly, felt that homosexuality was also a scourge, and thus proposed a sub-amendment, therefore known as the Mirguet amendment, tasking the Government to enact measures against homosexuality, which was adopted.
Article 330 alinea 2 was repealed in 1980 as part of an act redefining several sexual offenses.
Recognition of same-sex relationships
Civil solidarity pacts (PACS), a form of registered domestic partnerships, were enacted in 1999 for both same-sex and unmarried opposite-sex couples by the Government of Lionel Jospin. Couples who enter into a PACS contract are afforded most of the legal protections, rights, and responsibilities of marriage. The right to adoption and artificial insemination are, however, denied to PACS partners (and are largely restricted to married couples). Unlike married couples, they were originally not allowed to file joint tax returns until after 3 years, though this was repealed in 2005.
Civil unions/domestic partnerships conducted under laws in foreign countries are only recognised for a few countries. Registered civil partnerships in the United Kingdom are not recognised – the only solution currently available for a couple in a civil partnership to gain PACS rights in France is to dissolve their civil partnership and then establish a PACS. Registered partnerships from the Netherlands, by contrast, are already recognised. This does not, however, allow for dual citizenship, which is reserved for married couples. For example, a French citizen who enters into a registered partnership with a Dutch citizen in the Netherlands, and therefore assumes Dutch nationality, automatically loses their French citizenship.
On 14 June 2011, the National Assembly of France voted 293–222 against legalising same-sex marriage. Deputies of the majority party Union for a Popular Movement voted mostly against the measure, while deputies of the Socialist Party mostly voted in favor. Members of the Socialist Party stated that legalisation of same-sex marriage would become a priority should they gain a majority in the 2012 elections. On 7 May 2012, François Hollande won the election. In October, a new marriage bill was introduced by the French Government. On 2 February 2013, the National Assembly approved Article 1 of the bill, by 249 votes against 97. On 12 February 2013, the National Assembly approved the bill as a whole in a 329–229 vote and sent it to the country's Senate. The majority of the ruling Socialist Party voted in favor of the bill (only 4 of its members voted no) while the majority of the opposition party UMP voted against it (only 2 of its members voted yes).
On 4 April 2013, the Senate started the debate on the bill and five days later it approved its first article in a 179–157 vote. On 12 April, the Senate approved the bill with minor amendments. On 23 April, the National Assembly approved the amended bill by a vote of 331 to 225, thus extended marriage and adoption rights to same-sex couples, making France the 13th country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage.
However, a challenge to the law by the conservative UMP party was filed with the Constitutional Council following the vote. On 17 May 2013, the Council ruled that the law is constitutional. On 18 May 2013, President Francois Hollande signed the bill into law, which was officially published the next day in the Journal officiel. The first official same-sex ceremony took place on 29 May in the city of Montpellier.
Adoption and parenting
Same-sex couples have been legally able to adopt children since May 2013, when the same-sex marriage law took effect. The first joint adoption by a same-sex couple was announced on 18 October 2013.
In April 2018, the Association of Gay and Lesbian Parents reported that only 4 same-sex couples had been able to jointly adopt a child (apart from stepchild adoptions), and the Association of LGBT Families (ADFH) reported that "some families" were able to foster a French child and "less than ten" families were able to foster a foreign child.
As of 2018, lesbian couples do not have access to assisted reproductive technology. "Procréation médicalement assistée" (PMA) is only available to heterosexual couples in France. A poll in 2012 showed that 51% of the French population supported allowing lesbian couples to access it. The French Socialist Party also supports it. In June 2017, a spokesperson for French President Emmanuel Macron stated that the Government intends to legislate to allow assisted reproduction for lesbian couples. This followed a report by an independent ethics panel in France which recommended that PMA law be revised to include lesbian couples and single people. Marlène Schiappa, the Minister for Gender Equality, has said that a bill to allow lesbian couples and single women to access assisted reproduction will likely pass the Parliament in 2018. In 2017, a poll indicated that 64% of the French people supported the extension of assisted reproduction to lesbian couples. In July 2018, MP Guillaume Chiche introduced a bill to legalise assisted reproduction for lesbian couples and single women.
On 5 July 2017, the Court of Cassation ruled that a child born to a surrogate mother abroad can be adopted by the partner of his or her biological father. However, the court refused a request that the two parents listed on the foreign birth certificate be automatically recognised.
In 1985, national legislation was enacted to prohibit sexual orientation based discrimination in employment, housing and other public and private provisions of services and goods. In July 2012, the French Parliament added sexual identity to the protected grounds of discrimination in French law. The phrase sexual identity was used synonymous with gender identity despite some criticism from ILGA-Europe, who nevertheless still considered it an important step. On 18 November 2016, a new law amended article 225-1 of the French Penal Code and replaced "sexual identity" with "gender identity".
Discrimination in schools
In March 2008, Xavier Darcos, Minister of Education, announced a policy fighting against all forms of discrimination, including homophobia, in schools, one of the first in the world. It was one of 15 national priorities of education for the 2008–2009 school year.
The Fédération Indépendante et Démocratique Lycéenne (FIDL; Independent and Democratic Federation of High School Students) – the first high school student union in France – has also launched campaigns against homophobia in schools and among young people.
In January 2019, the Ministry of Education launched a new campaign to tackle anti-LGBT bullying in schools. The campaign, called Tous égaux, tous alliés (All equal, all allied), helps students access services to report bullying, established a helpline for students and staff to use, and requires all French schools to provide guidance about LGBT issues. The 17th May, the International Day Against Homophobia, will also be a special day to promote actions of sensitisation.
Hate crime laws
On 31 December 2004, the National Assembly approved an amendment to existing anti-discrimination legislation, making homophobic, sexist, racist, xenophobic etc. comments illegal. The maximum penalty of a €45,000 fine and/or 12 months imprisonment has been criticised 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 Court of Cassation after a refused appeal.
The law of December 2004 created the Haute autorité de lutte contre les discriminations et pour l'égalité (High Authority against Discrimination and for Equality). Title 3 and Articles 20 and 21 of the law amended the law of 29 July 1881 on freedom of the press to make provisions for more specific offenses including injury, defamation, insult, incitement to hatred or violence, or discrimination against a person or group of persons because of their gender, sexual orientation or disability.
When a physical assault or murder is motivated by the sexual orientation of the victim, the law increases the penalties that are normally given.
In October 2018, after a rise in a series of homophobic attacks, President Emmanuel Macron denounced the homophobic violence as being "unworthy of France", announcing future "concrete measures". He tweeted: "Homophobic violence must be a concern for our entire society. They are unworthy of France. Concrete measures will be announced but they [cannot] replace humanity and tolerance which are at the heart of our culture", without specifying the content of these future measures.
Gender identity and expression
Transsexual persons are allowed to change their legal sex. In 2009, France became the first country in the world to remove transsexualism from its list of diseases. Transsexualism is part of the ALD 31 and treatment is funded by Sécurité Sociale.
On 6 November 2015, a bill to allow transgender people to legally change their gender without the need for sex reassignment surgery and forced sterilisation was approved by the French Senate. On 24 May 2016, the National Assembly approved the bill. MP Pascale Crozon, who introduced the bill, reminded MPs before the vote about the long, uncertain and humiliating procedures by which transgender people must go through to change their gender on their vital records. Due to differing texts, a joint session was established. On 12 July 2016, the National Assembly approved a modified version of the bill which maintained the provisions outlawing psychiatrist certificates and proofs of sex reassignment surgery, while also dropping the original bill's provision of allowing self-certification of gender. On 28 September, the French Senate discussed the bill. The French National Assembly then met on 12 October in a plenary session to approve the bill once more and rejected amendments proposed by the French Senate which would have required proof of medical treatment. On 17 November, the Constitutional Council ruled that the bill is constitutional. It was signed by the President on 18 November 2016, published in the Journal officiel the next day, and took effect on 1 January 2017.
Intersex people in France have some of the same rights as other people, but with significant gaps in protection from non-consensual medical interventions and protection from discrimination. In response to pressure from intersex activists and recommendations by United Nations Treaty Bodies, the Senate published an inquiry into the treatment of intersex people in February 2017. An individual, Gaëtan Schmitt, is currently taking legal action to obtain "neutral sex" ("sexe neutre") classification. On 17 March 2017, the President of the Republic, François Hollande, described medical interventions to make the bodies of intersex children more typically male or female as increasingly considered to be mutilations.
A circulaire from the Directorate General of Health, which dates back to 20 June 1983 at the height of the HIV epidemy, banned men who have sex with men (MSM) from donating blood. However, it was recalled by the ministerial decree on 12 January 2009.
On 3 April 2015, a deputy member of the Union of Democrats and Independents, Arnaud Richard, presented an amendment against the exclusion of MSM, which was eventually adopted later in the same month.
In November 2015, Minister of Health Marisol Touraine announced that gay and bisexual men in France can donate blood after 1 year of abstinence. This policy was implemented and went into effect on 10 July 2016.
LGBT rights movement in France
LGBT rights organisations in France include Act Up Paris, SOS Homophobie, Arcadie, FHAR, Gouines rouges, GLH, CUARH, and L'Association Trans Aide, ( Trans Aid Association, established in September 2004) and Bi'cause (bisexual).
The Mayor of Paris between 2001 and 2014, Bertrand Delanoë, publicly revealed his homosexuality in 1998, before his first election in 2001.
In December 2006, an Ipsos-MORI Eurobarometer survey conducted showed: 62% supported same-sex marriage, while 37% were opposed; 55% believed gay and lesbian couples should not have parenting rights, while 44% believed same-sex couples should be able to adopt.
In June 2011, an Ifop poll found that 63% of respondents were in favour of same-sex marriage, while 58% supported adoption rights for same-sex couples. In 2012, an Ifop poll showed that 90% of the French perceived homosexuality like one way as another to live their sexuality.
A 2013 Pew Research Center opinion survey showed that 77% of the French population believed homosexuality should be accepted by society, while 22% believed it should not. Younger people were more accepting: 81% of people between 18 and 29 believed it should be accepted, 79% of people between 30 and 49 and 74% of people over 50.
In May 2015, PlanetRomeo, an LGBT social network, published its first Gay Happiness Index (GHI). Gay men from over 120 countries were asked about how they feel about society’s view on homosexuality, how do they experience the way they are treated by other people and how satisfied are they with their lives. France was ranked 21st, just above South Africa and below Australia, with a GHI score of 63.
Overseas departments and territories
Same-sex marriage is legal in all of France's overseas departments and territories. Despite this, acceptance of homosexuality and same-sex relationships tends to be lower than in metropolitan France, as residents are in general more religious, and religion plays a bigger role in public life. Many of these societies are very family and tribe-oriented where family honor is highly regarded. In some of these territories, homosexuality is occasionally perceived as "foreign" and "practiced only by the white population". The first same-sex marriages in Saint Martin and French Polynesia caused public demonstrations against such marriages. Ignorance about homosexuality can lead to violence and hatred, or on the other hand curiosity. A 2014 study showed that about 20% of Overseas residents saw homosexuality as a sexuality like any other, compared to 77% in metropolitan France. Nevertheless, the 2013 same-sex marriage law has resulted in increased discussion about the previously taboo and neglected topic. LGBT people have gained notable visibility since 2013.
Of the 27 overseas deputies in the French Parliament, 11 (2 from Mayotte, 3 from Réunion, 1 from French Guiana, 1 from Guadeloupe, 1 from Martinique, 2 from New Caledonia and 1 from Saint Pierre and Miquelon) voted in favor of same-sex marriage, 11 (2 from Guadeloupe, 3 from Martinique, 3 from French Polynesia, 2 from Réunion and 1 from Saint Martin and Saint Barthélemy) voted against, 1 (from French Guiana) abstained and 3 (1 each from Réunion, Guadeloupe and Wallis and Futuna) were not present during the vote.
The group Let's go (French Creole: An Nou Allé) is an LGBT organization active in the French Caribbean. Other groups include AIDES Territoire Martinique, KAP Caraïbe, Tjenbé Rèd Prévention and SAFE SXM (originally from Sint Maarten). Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint Martin and Saint Barthélemy are famous internationally for their beaches and tourist attractions, which include gay bars, discos, saunas and beaches. The first "Caribbean Gay Pride" was held in the Martinique city of Le Carbet in June 2017. Regarded as successful, the event was attended by a few thousand people and included a beach party and musical dances. In addition, Saint Barthélemy's reputation as an international celebrity tourist destination has resulted in a more open and relaxed social climate for LGBT people than the other French Caribbean territories.
LGBT people in New Caledonia are widely accepted, and enjoy a large nightlife and dating scene. This is much more notable in the South Province than the Kanak-majority North Province or the Loyalty Islands. According to a 2008 survey, 65% of boys and 77% of girls in New Caledonia agreed with the statement "homosexuals are people like everybody else". However, the Kanak people reported a lower acceptance. In 2006, Lifou Island proposed a "family code", which sought to ban homosexuality and foresee punishments of eviction or lynching for homosexuals. The proposal never got approved.
Similarly, Réunion is known for being welcoming to LGBT people and has been described as a "gay-friendly haven in Africa". In 2007, the local tourism authorities launched a "gay-welcoming" charter in tour operators, hotels, bars and restaurants. There are famous gay beaches in Saint-Leu and L'Étang-Salé. The association LGBT Réunion organised the island's first pride parade in October 2012. Mayotte, on the other hand, is overwhelmingly Muslim and possesses a strong Arab-Bantu culture. This heavily influences public perception of the LGBT community, as there have been frequent reports of family rejections, harassment and discrimination on the island. Homosexuality is typically a taboo topic among the Mahorais, and many LGBT people have chosen to move to neighbouring Réunion or to metropolitan France. Nevertheless, the first same-sex marriage in Mayotte, the first in a majoritarily Muslim jurisdiction, was performed in September 2013 with little fanfare. Mayotte has a long-standing tradition of sarambavis, which in Shimaore refers to men who choose the follow "the law of women", and thus dress, act and behave as women and partake in traditional female activities. In recent years, the term has been used as an insult towards homosexuals.
The gay scene is more limited in French Guiana, though local LGBT people have reported a "growing sense of acceptance", which many attribute to French Guiana's closely knit families and communities. Homosexuality tends to be more taboo among the Amerindian and Bushinengue people, where the pressure to conform and to marry a heterosexual partner is very strong. Family and tribal honour are highly regarded in these cultures, and those who "bring shame to their families" are typically ostracised.
While French Polynesia tends to be more socially conservative, it has become more accepting and tolerant of LGBT people in recent years. In 2009, the first LGBT organization (called Cousins Cousines) was founded in the territory, and the first LGBT event was also held that same year. Furthermore, French Polynesian society has a long tradition of raising some boys as girls to play important domestic roles in communal life (including dancing, singing and house chores). Such individuals are known as the māhū, and are perceived by society as belonging to a third gender. This is similar to the fa'afafine of Samoa and the whakawāhine of New Zealand. Historically, the māhū would hold important positions among nobles, and unlike eunuchs were not castrated. The Tahitian term rae rae, on the other hand, refers to modern-day transsexuals who undergo medical operations to change gender. Māhū and rae rae are not to be confused, as the former is a cultural and traditional recognized Polynesian identity, while the latter encompasses contemporary transgender identity.
In Saint Pierre and Miquelon, the gay scene is very limited, due mostly to its small population. Nonetheless, homosexuality tends to be accepted and there is very little controversy surrounding the issue. In Wallis and Futuna, like in other Polynesian nations, the family holds a significant societal role. Homosexuality is usually treated with indifference, unless it adversely affects the family. Wallis and Futuna, like French Polynesia, also has a traditional third gender population: the fakafafine. The first same-sex marriage in Wallis and Futuna was performed in 2016.
|Same-sex sexual activity legal||(Since 1791)|
|Equal age of consent||(Before 1942 and again in 1982)|
|Anti-discrimination laws in employment||(Since 1985)|
|Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services||(Since 1985)|
|Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech)||(Since 2004)|
|Anti-discrimination laws concerning gender identity||(Since 2012 and 2016)|
|Same-sex marriage||(Since 2013)|
|Recognition of same-sex couples (e.g. unregistered cohabitation, life partnership)||(Since 1999)|
|Stepchild adoption by same-sex couples||(Since 2013)|
|Joint adoption by same-sex couples||(Since 2013)|
|Automatic parenthood on birth certificates for children of same-sex couples||(Pending)|
|LGBT people allowed to serve openly in the military|
|Right to change legal gender||(Since 1992)|
|Access to IVF for lesbian couples||(Pending)|
|Homosexuality declassified as an illness|
|Transsexuality declassified as an illness||(Since 2009)|
|Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples||(Commercial surrogacy is illegal for all couples regardless of sexual orientation)|
|MSMs allowed to donate blood||/ (Since 2016; 1 year deferral period)|
- Human rights in France
- Intersex rights in France
- LGBT history in France
- Same-sex marriage in France
- Feminism in France
- LGBT culture in Paris
- LGBT rights in Europe
- LGBT rights in the European Union
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- (in French) Polynésie française : le premier mariage gay dérange
- (in French) Saint-Martin. Un premier mariage gay pour la presque Friendly Island
- (in French) RAPPORT D’INFORMATION FAIT AU NOM DE LA DÉLÉGATION AUX OUTRE-MER (1) sur la lutte contre les discriminations anti LGBT dans les Outre-mer
- Mariage pour tous: le vote des députés d'Outre-mer
- Gay Life in French West Indies (Gaudeloupe, Martinique, Saint Barts, Saint Martin)
- (in French) La Gay Pride attire des adeptes et des curieux
- Gay friendly destination
- Réunion: a gay-friendly stop in the Indian Ocean
- (in French) La Réunion: la première Marche pour l’égalité et la légalité aura lieu samedi
- (in French) Mayotte: premier mariage gay célébré
- Mariage pour tous, la Guyane semble plus tolérante
- (in French) En Guyane, la souffrance de jeunes LGBT, rejetés par leur famille
- Tahiti découvre l'homosexualité
- RaeRae and Mahu: third Polynesian gender
- Vivre gay à Wallis et Futuna?
- (in French) Premier mariage pour tous célébré à la Mairie de Saint-Pierre
- Migration, urbanisation et émergence des transgenres wallisiennes dans la ville de Nouméa
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to LGBT in France.|
- 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
- Gunther, Scott Eric (2009). The Elastic Closet A History of Homosexuality in France, 1942-present. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-230-59510-1.