It started out as a measure to protect gay rights. Now, France's 1999
civil unions system is all the rage with straight couples, reports the New York Times
The year after the system was instituted, more than 75 percent of civil
unions were between a man and a woman. By 2009, that number had jumped
to 95 percent. For couples disillusioned by matrimony, the civil union
presents an appealing alternative. It allows couples tax benefits,
residency permits, and eschews the pomp of marriage for a hassle-free
appearance before a judge. Best of all, perhaps, it can be annulled by a
single registered letter. While the popularity of "getting PACSed" (pacte civil de solidarité
) soars, marriage in the country is all but moribund. In some parts of Paris, the number of couples opting for PACSs already outnumbers those choosing wedding bells.
Nationwide, there are two civil unions for every three marriages.
Sociologist Wilfried Rault says the French are eager to get away from an
institution with heavy religious overtones. "Marriage bears the traces
of a religious imprint," he said. "It's really an ideological slant,
saying, 'No one is going to tell me what I have to do.' "