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Mayor sued over gay marriage refusal

 Bayonne, France - A gay couple in southwestern France on Wednesday pressed charges against a mayor who has refused to wed them in defiance of a landmark law allowing same-sex unions.

Jean-Michel Colo, the mayor of Arcangues, stirred up controversy by becoming the first French official to formally refuse to officiate at the wedding of a gay couple, Jean-Michel Martin and Guy Martineau-Espel, and has made several combative statements.

Mayor of Arcangues Jean-Michel Colo arrives, supported by about one hundred protesters, at the Sub-Prefecture in Bayonne, southwestern France, for his summoning after he refused as mayor to marry same-sex couples at his Town Hall. Credit: AFP

Isabelle Duguet, the couple's lawyer, said she had filed a case against Colo for discrimination and refusal to carry out his official duties. The 60-year-old has been mayor of Arcangues for three decades.

Duguet said he could face a five-year jail term and a 75 000-euro ($98 000) fine.

“For me, marriage is for a woman and man to have children. I am not discriminating as a same-sex couple is sterile. It's a parody of equality, it's a big lie,” Colo had said earlier, defending his stand.

“I will go to the gallows” rather than back down, Colo said.

Interior Minister Manuel Valls has warned Colo of “significant sanctions”, telling reporters that any public servants refusing to respect the letter of the law would be guilty of discrimination and thus risk up to three years in prison, as well as paying 45 000 euros in damages.

Martineu-Espel had told AFP that the couple had even tried to tell the mayor that the nuptials would not be played out in the media but he had failed to persuade Colo to marry them.

In April, France became the 14th country to legalise same-sex marriage after President Francois Hollande, who had made the issue a major electoral plank, signed the measure into law following months of bitter political debate.

The first gay marriage in France was held on May 29. - Sapa-AFP

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