French Couples Are Using Civil Unions as Starter Marriages

pacsAh, young love– you fall for someone and want to declare your eternal affection, but aren’t sure it’ll last forever. What to do? Well, if you’re like one of a half million French people, you’ll grab yourself a civil union. Originally meant to placate the gays, the Civil Solidarity Pact, or PACS is now a popular option for straight couple looking to for many of the benefits of marriage, with a lot less hassle. One man getting PACS’d said, “It’s a first step toward marriage”. Yes, for gay people, too.

The Washington Post reports
:

“The number of PACS celebrated in France, both gay and heterosexual unions, has grown from 6,000 in its first year of operation in 1999 to more than 140,000 in 2008, according to official statistics. For every two marriages in France, a PACS is celebrated, the statistics show, making a total of half a million PACSed couples, and the number is rising steadily.

Yves Padovani, chief clerk at the Marseille court, said couples stream through his office every day at half-hour intervals and make appointments three months in advance to get a slot.

Perhaps more important as an indication of how French people live, the number of heterosexual men and women entering into a PACS agreement has grown from 42 percent of the total initially to 92 percent last year.

That was not what conservative opponents of the measure foresaw in 1999. They viewed it as an encouragement of homosexuality and organized rallies to denounce the Socialists for undermining morality in France. Christine Boutin, housing minister under conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy, was among the most vociferous critics and still complains that the PACS harms society by serving as a substitute for marriage.

In recognition of the PACS’s growing popularity, however, a half-dozen French cities, skirting the terms of the law, have recently begun holding marriagelike PACS ceremonies in the often ornate city hall rooms formerly reserved for weddings. Most of those cities are run by Socialist mayors. But Christian Estrosi, mayor of Nice and a close Sarkozy ally, also has put his city on the list, indicating rising acceptance of PACS unions even among political conservatives. “