In December last year, 66 countries voted in favour of decriminalising homosexuality worldwide. The declaration was the first time the issue of gay rights had been read in the United Nations General Assembly.
Although the declaration was non-binding, the initiative was viewed as a significant step forward.
It was France who sponsored the declaration, driven by their human rights minister, Senegal-born Rama Yade.
How can we tolerate the fact that people are stoned, hanged, decapitated and tortured only because of their sexual orientation? Yade said after the vote.
Lille-born Vincent, 28, says historically France has always fought for human rights.
I think this is awesome. I’m very proud. We’ve always done things like that, trying to make a change in relation to human rights. At least we’ve done something good with the European presidency, he said.
As France pushes for anti-discrimination on a global scale, there is much debate internally surrounding marriage legislation. Neither major political party in France currently supports gay marriage.
In June 2004, NoÃ«l MamÃ¨re, Greens politician and the mayor of the Bordeaux suburb of BÃ¨gles, presided over the marriage of a gay couple. Three courts in France have since declared the marriage illegal.
Only the adoption of a new law by parliament could allow the situation to evolve, said the Cour de Cassation, France’s Supreme Court.
MamÃ¨re has threatened to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights.
I have no regrets. I subscribe to this cause and I will persist -¦ I was actually enforcing the European Convention for Human Rights which prohibits any discrimination, MamÃ¨re said in 2007.
Vincent said, That wedding was on the cover of every magazine in France. It was a scandal. They were everywhere because it’s not allowed but they did it. I think this wedding is a good thing. It’s pushing the rights a lot further. It’s a step towards more acceptance.
Opponents of gay marriage argue that the Pacte Civil de Solidarite (Civil Solidarity Pact), a form of registered partnership enacted in 1999, offers most of the legal rights of marriage, including housing, health and welfare benefits and the right to file a joint tax return.
While they made PaCS for the gays, it has been very popular for both straight and gay, said Vincent. It’s difficult to obtain a divorce in France with the administration, the waiting period and the lawyer. With a PaCS you can terminate it straight away.
Marriage is related to religion, it’s in a church. But the religion in France doesn’t accept gay marriage. So with the PaCS you don’t really need gay marriage. I think it’s really good for gays.
After working as an art director in Paris, Vincent came to Sydney four years ago and is a creative director for an advertising firm.
During his travels Vincent made the video-diary Follow the Adventure. In conjunction with samesame.com.au, he has just finished Surf Camp, where five gay boys are taught to surf with the online community deciding who’s evicted.
Sydney sounded great. When you’re coming from Paris, the beach, big city and weather are all very attractive.