November 09, 1999
Law giving rights to unmarried couples is ruled constitutional

PARIS (AP) France's Constitutional Council on Tuesday ruled that a law giving extensive legal rights to unmarried couples, including gays, is constitutional.

      After a year of heated debate, the National Assembly approved the law in October by a vote of 315-249. Conservative lawmakers immediately asked the 9-member constitutional watchdog group to decide whether the law violated the constitution, in which case it would have been void.

      The law, called the Civil Solidarity Pact, better known by its acronym PACS, would affect the 4.4 million heterosexual couples who live together but are not married. The number of gay couples is unknown.

      The PACS law will let couples file joint tax forms after three years together; help people bring foreign partners to France; force employers to take couples' joint vacation plans into account; and make partners accountable for each others' debts.

      Conservatives argued the PACS would undermine traditional family values. But the Socialists, who introduced the bill, said the law would better protect couples regardless of gender.