Top French court gives go-ahead for Franco-Moroccan same-sex marriage

PARIS (AFP) - France's highest appeals court on Wednesday gave the go-ahead for a French-Moroccan gay couple to marry, going against a ruling that homosexuals from Morocco and 10 other nations cannot tie the knot in the country.

France legalised same-sex marriage in 2013 after months of intense and sometimes violent protests, and the couple - Dominique and Mohammed - immediately got to work planning their official union.

But just two days before the wedding, prosecutors in the south-eastern city of Chambery ruled it could not go ahead.

They cited a government circular stating that nationals from countries as diverse as Morocco, Poland and Laos were not allowed to marry people of the same sex in France.

They are among 11 nations that ban gay marriage and had signed agreements with France under which a citizen in a binational couple must obey his or her own nation's marriage law.

Since their failed attempt to tie the knot, two separate courts had ruled that Dominique and Mohammed - who have asked for their last names not to be published - could marry.

So prosecutors took the case to the Cour de Cassation, France's highest appeals court.

On Wednesday, the court said that a clause in the agreement signed between France and Morocco on the issue stipulated that the law of one of the countries could be discarded when it was "obviously incompatible with public order".

Public order is a set of rules that help organise a nation, its economy, health system, security, and also includes the rights and freedoms deemed necessary for each citizen.

The court ruled that freedom to marry was a fundamental right in France, and going against it would therefore be incompatible with public order.

The decision could create a precedent and allow gay citizens from the 11 countries concerned to tie the knot in France.

Socialist President Francois Hollande, who had pledged to legalise gay marriage after taking office, faced a huge backlash from the opposition right and the powerful Catholic Church.

The first gay wedding in France was held in May 2013 in the southern city of Montpellier, which has a gay-friendly reputation.