Civil solidarity pact
|Legal recognition of
|†Note: Not yet in effect|
In France, a civil solidarity pact (French: pacte civil de solidarité), commonly known as a PACS (pronounced: [paks]), is a form of civil union between two adults (same-sex or opposite-sex) for organising their joint life. It brings rights and responsibilities, but less so than marriage. The PACS was voted by the French Parliament in November 1999.
As of 2012, 94% of PACS are between opposite-sex couples. From a legal standpoint, a PACS is a contract drawn up between the two individuals, which is stamped and registered by the clerk of the court. In some areas, couples signing a PACS have the option of undergoing a formal ceremony at the city hall identical to that of civil marriage. Since 2006, individuals who have registered a PACS are no longer considered single in terms of their marital status; their birth records will be amended to show their status as pacsé.
The French National Assembly failed to pass PACS in October 1998. While it was pushed by the government of Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, it was also opposed, mostly by people on the right-wing who opposed gay rights, such as Christine Boutin and Philippe de Villiers, who argued that PACS and the recognition of homosexual unions would be disastrous for French society. Only one right-wing deputy, Roselyne Bachelot, declared herself in favour of PACS.
The law (Loi n°99-944 du 15 novembre 1999 relative au pacte civil de solidarité ) was voted by the French Parliament in November 1999 following some controversy. The debate is remembered for a few incidents, such as when Christine Boutin spoke for five hours in the French National Assembly, and at some point waved a Christian Bible in the direction of the speaker of the Assembly — a surprising gesture in a country where laïcité (implying no intervention of religion into political matters) is specified in the Constitution. Christine Boutin also said, "All civilizations that recognized and justified homosexuality as a normal lifestyle met decadence." Anti-PACS opponents also staged a series of street protests, but the turnout, by their own admission, was disappointingly low. At its creation, Jacques Chirac described PACS as "not adapted to the needs of families". However, most initial opponents now widely accept the PACS (even Jacques Chirac and Christine Boutin, who publicly changed their mind).
It was to be a marked improvement and alternative over the previous certificat de concubinage notoire, which had minimal rights (and responsibilities) and had been seen as having pejorative overtones. The situation of concubinage only made certain benefits extend to the other partner in a union, and did not settle any issue regarding property, taxes, etc.
Initially, PACS offered the right to file joint income taxes only after 3 years. As of 2005, all PACS couples are required to file joint taxes, in the same manner as married couples. Due to the way that the progressive tax is applied in France, a couple filing joint income taxes, in almost all cases, pays less tax than they would filing separately if one of the partners earns substantially more than the other.
Wealth tax (impôt sur la fortune) was consistently applied to the combined assets of both partners, since the introduction of the PACS in 1999.
In 2004, PACS was described in a report to the Garde des Sceaux (minister for justice) as "a new way of conjugality, answering many needs and inscribed in continuity".
A parliamentary "Report on the Family and the Rights of Children" was released on January 25, 2006. Although the committee recommended increasing some rights given in PACS in areas such as property rights, laws of succession and taxation, it recommended maintaining prohibitions against marriage, adoption, and access to medically assisted reproduction for same-sex couples. Because of this, left-wing members of the committee rejected the report. The report also argued that the differences in rights between concubinage, PACS and marriage reflect different levels of commitment and obligations on the part of the couples who enter into them. The committee renewed its support for this tiered system and recommended that the various rights and obligations of each type of union be clearly explained to couples when they register for a PACS, marry, or have a child.
266,000 civil marriages took place in 2004, a decline of 5.9% from 2003. However, the report found that the number of couples getting PACS had increased every year except 2001. There was a 29% increase in PACS between 2001 and 2002 and a 25% increase between 2002 and 2003. For the first 9 months of 2004, 27,000 PACS were signed compared to 22,000 in 2003. The report found that one PACS in 10 had been dissolved (less than divorces for couples married for the same period, for which one marriage in three will be dissolved by divorce or separation after the first 3 years during which most signed PACS are dissolved before becoming more stable than marriages).
A parliamentary report released in January 2006 said a total of around 170,000 PACS had been signed.
|Total PACS||Total marriages between
|% same-sex unions|
|2000||5 412||16 859||22 271||305 234||1,65|
|2001||3 323||16 306||19 629||295 720||1,05|
|2002||3 622||21 683||25 305||286 169||1,16|
|2003||4 294||27 276||31 570||282 756||1,37|
|2004||5 023||35 057||40 080||278 439||1,58|
|2005||4 865||55 597||60 462||283 036||1,42|
|2006||5 071||72 276||77 347||273 914||1,44|
|2007||6 221||95 778||101 999||273 669||1,66|
|2008||8 201||137 801||146 002||265 404||1,99|
|2009||8 434||166 089||174 523||251 478||1,98|
|2010||9 143||196 415||205 558||251 654||2,00|
New Caledonia and Wallis and Futuna 
In April 2009, the French National Assembly voted to approve the extension of PACS to two French overseas collectivities: New Caledonia and Wallis and Futuna. Thus, couples in New Caledonia and Wallis and Futuna are able to enter a PACS in the same way as couples in Metropolitan France. Given their autonomous status, these collectivities did not automatically begin performing PACS when they were introduced in Metropolitan France in 1999. Indeed, in other autonomous collectivites, such as French Polynesia, PACS cannot be performed.
Current trends 
Although originally intended for same-sex couples, currently in France the majority of couples taking advantage of its law are now heterosexual couples who for one reason or another choose civil union rather than marriage, and that more heterosexual couples are opting for civil union rather than marriage. In fact, this trend was already in place in 2000, with 75% of unions between heterosexual couples (42% the previous years) and 95% in 2009. The process is commonly referred to as se pacser (IPA: [pakse], getting PACSed).
See also 
- LGBT rights in France
- Recognition of same-sex unions in Europe
- Same-sex marriage in France
- Same-sex unions and military policy – France
- Libération - Il n’y a pas de mariage homosexuel, il y a un mariage pour tous (There is no same-sex marriage, there is marriage for all - Il faut remarquer aussi qu’en dépit du fait que ce sont des hétéros, à 94%, qui concluent des pacs, personne ne parle jamais de «pacs hétéro» ou de «pacs homo». (It should also be noted that despite the fact that it is the heterosexuals, at 94% who enter civil unions, no one ever talks about "opposite-sex pacs straight" or "same-sex pacs".)
- Marseille: le pacs bientôt célébré dans les mairies socialistes, Tetu, 19 May 2009
- Joelle Godard, "PACS Seven Years On: Is It Moving Towards Marriage", International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family, vol. 21, no. 3, 2007, p. 317
- LESBIAN/GAY LAW NOTES November 1998
- Loi 99/944 du 15/11/1999
- France ready to change civil pact - Washington Times
- Preserve Marriage - Links
- Insee - Population - 2004 Demographic report - Net decrease in death rates
- (French) Évolution du nombre de mariages et de pacs conclus jusqu'en 2012
- [Le pacs arrive enfin dans les TOM], Tetu
- New Caledonia catches up to France, Sydney Star Observer
- Acceptance with a friendly smile - starobserver.com.au
- Straight Couples in France Are Choosing Civil Unions Meant for Gays
- In France, Civil Unions Gain Favor Over Marriage