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Marseille official sentenced for refusing to perform same-sex marriage

Sabrina Hout AFP

A Marseille court has handed a five-month suspended sentence to a city official who refused to marry two women. The case is the first since France legalised same-sex marriage in 2013.

At a hearing on 1 September before the criminal court, the prosecution had requested three months of imprisonment and a 1,500 euro fine against Sabrina Hout, one of the city’s deputy mayors, for discrimination.

When the two women who wanted to marry appeared at her office in August 2014, Hout claimed she was not feeling well and had a borough council member perform the marriage instead.

However, borough council members are not authorised to perform marriages.

The marriage was later declared invalid by the city, and the couple was legally married by a district mayor in Marseille last year.

Three witnesses have testified to the court that the deputy mayor is not homophobic, and Hout, who is Muslim, says her religion does not prevent her from performing same-sex marriages. Her lawyer blamed her decision on "clumsiness, ignorance".

"I'm really sorry. I'm ashamed of what I did, if it was interpreted as homophobia," Hout had told the court, insisting that the events were due to a "bad set of circumstances."