15 March 2007

But whereas, according to French law, marriage is the union of a man and a woman...

The French Cour de cassation, in a decision handed down last tuesday (March 13th) rejected an appeal against a Court of Appeals decision annulling a decree of marriage between two men. Having decided that the Bordeaux public prosecutor had indeed been competent to attack the celebration of marriage conducted by the mayor of Bègles, the Cour de cassation deals with substantive complaints against the lower court's decision. These complaints were, principally, that (a) maintaining the requirement of a difference in sex in French law constituted an 'atteinte grave' (serious infringement) of the right to respect for private life of the applicants as guaranteed by article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, (b) constituted discrimination prohibited by article 14 read together with article 8 of the same Convention, (c) violated article 12 of the same Convention - guaranteeing the right to marry -, again read alone and in conjuction with the prohibition on discrimination of article 14, and (d) violated article 9 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. It is worthwhile to note that both provisions on marriage (art. 12 Convention and art. 9 Charter) stipulate that the right is to be exercised according to governing national laws.

The entire substantive decision of the Cour de cassation reads as follows (my translation):

But whereas, according to French law, marriage is the union of a man and a woman; and whereas this principle is not contradicted by any provision of the European Convention on Human Rights nor of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which does not have obligatory force in France; and whereas the plea is unfounded in all of its branches;

On these grounds:
Rejects the appeal

I'm not even going to try to offer substantive comments on the decision. Let me just point out two bits of comparative law info. (1) Anyone interested in how the Cour de cassation can 'get away' with such a short decision on such a highly controversial subject, can find lots of interesting suggestions in Mitchel Lasser's book Judicial Deliberations, mentioned before on this blog. (2) There's lots and lots of information on the Proz.com Translators' Workspace Website on how to translate French legal texts. For example, there is an entire debate on how to deal with 'attendu que ...; que ...; que ...' sentences, as found in all Cour de cassation decisions. Question: should you repeat the 'whereas' everytime? As you can see, I've chosen to do so, but you should bear in mind that this is - apparently - hugely controversial. Very thorough stuff.

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