(text) France’s highest court ruled on Friday that the country’s mayors cannot refuse to officiate at same-sex marriages , rejecting a bid by a group of mayors who claimed gay marriage went against their moral or religious beliefs. The Constitutional Council’s ruling followed an appeal by mayors and registrars opposed to Frances controversial bill legalising same-sex marriages, which came into effect in May this year. FRANCE In pictures: Paris Pride parade toasts gay marriage They argued that the same-sex marriage bill should have included a freedom of conscience clause, giving officiators the right not to carry out same-sex marriages if it conflicts with their personal religious or moral beliefs. The lack of such a clause in the bill goes against the French constitution, they claim. But the Council, Frances highest legal authority, rejected this argument in its ruling on Friday morning. The Council judged that, in view of the functions of a state official in the officiating of a marriage, the legislation does not violate their freedom of conscience, the Council said in a statement. A political decision Jean-Michel Colo , the Mayor of Arcangues in southwest France who hit headlines in June when he became the first official to refuse to marry a gay couple, denounced the Councils decision. The Constitutional Council has been manipulated by politics. It is a political decision, he told AFP. Colo said that the group of mayors would now take their case to the European Court of Human Rights. Meanwhile, the group Manif Pour Tous, which has been at the forefront of protests against the legalisation of same-sex marriage, said it supports all the mayors who courageously dare to assert their right to freedom of conscience. The organisation says a petition it launched in defence of the right of mayors not to officiate at gay weddings has collected more than 80,000 signatures. In France, marriages can only be made official by state authorities, though many couples also celebrate religious weddings.
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The story has since become more complicated, with the father admitting that he lied in his asylum application when he said the entire family fled Kosovo, where they were persecuted for being Roma, or Gypsies. Leonarda, and most of her siblings, were born in Italy, though they do not have Italian citizenship. A government report published Saturday found that the police followed the law, although the report said they didn’t seem to realize the sensitivity of what they were doing. But apparently fearing that conclusion wouldn’t put the issue to rest, Hollande went on national television Saturday to walk the line between maintaining a tough stance on illegal immigrants and showing compassion for girl caught up in the storm. He said Leonarda, considering the circumstances of her detention, could come back to France to go to school, if she wishes. But only she can come back. In Mitrovica, Kosovo, where the family is now living, Leonarda told reporters she would not come back without her family. Her father threatened to return to France, even if it was illegal. “Mr. Hollande has no heart for my family? He has no pity?” Leonarda asked, in an emotional scene in front of cameras. She had earlier said that she was deeply ashamed when the police took her away in front of her classmates. Hollande also said local authorities would be told that, from now on, no such detentions can happen while children are in the care of their schools, whether inside the building, at the exit, on a bus or in after-school activities. Although polls show that the majority of French people don’t think the family should be allowed to return to France, the case has threatened to destabilize the Hollande government.
And while France is party to international treaties on forced evictions, in French law forced evictions are not prohibited, according to Amnesty International. According to guidelines that Mr. Hollande’s government issued last year, French authorities are supposed to notify residents of evictions within three months of a judicial ruling on whether a camp is illegal, and put in place a plan for suitable housing alternatives where possible. But human rights groups say that is not happening. And tensions have intensified with the approach of the new year, when two major legal obstacles facing Roma in France are set to fall. First, Romania and Bulgaria are set to become part of Europe’s passport-free Schengen Area. Although France says the two countries aren’t ready yet, their joining of Schengen will allow Romanians and Bulgarians, including the Roma, to travel freely through the area including France without a passport. In addition, French law currently requires Bulgarians and Romanians have a work or study visa to be allowed to stay in the country indefinitely. But those requirements are set to expire in January as well, opening the door to Roma to live and work in France without permission. Integration? The potential arrival of thousands or more of Bulgarian and Romanian Roma has fueled concerns like those of Mr. Valls, whose comments generated an outcry in France, even from some in his own government. Le Monde, the countrys newspaper of record, took a particularly hard stand, saying he left the debate exactly where the right wing had put it” by saying that only a few families manage to integrate in French society. Valls has also been criticized outside French borders, notably by Viviane Reding, the vice president of the European Commission, who says France is violating EU rules on free circulation and that it could face sanctions.
Hollande says expelled 15-year-old can come back to school in France, but with her family