Civil solidarity pact

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In France, a civil solidarity pact (French: pacte civil de solidarité), commonly known as a PACS (pronounced [paks]), is a contractual form of civil union between two adults for organising their joint life. It brings rights and responsibilities, but less so than marriage. The PACS was voted for by the French Parliament in October 1999, largely to offer some legal status to same-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.[1] 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.[2]

As of 2013, PACS remain available to both same and opposite-sex couples after marriage and adoption rights were made legal for same-sex couples in May 2013.


The French National Assembly failed to pass PACS in October 1998.[3] The law was proposed by the left-of-center government of Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, and was very vocally opposed by people, mostly on the right-wing, who opposed LGBT rights. Those, such as Christine Boutin and Philippe de Villiers, 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[4]) 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 attempted to filibuster the bill by speaking 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 proponents 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 (including Jacques Chirac and Christine Boutin, who publicly changed their minds).

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 three 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 (the Impôt de solidarité sur la fortune) has been 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".

Laws regarding same-sex partnerships in Europe¹
  Civil union
  Limited domestic recognition (cohabitation)
  Limited foreign recognition (residency rights)
  Constitution limits marriage to opposite-sex couples
¹ May include recent laws or court decisions that have not yet entered into effect.

In December 2004, the French Government began preparations for expanding the rights granted in PACS. French LGBT groups considered it a tactic for avoiding debate on same-sex marriage.[5]

A parliamentary "Report on the Family and the Rights of Children" was released on 25 January 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.[6][7] 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.


PACS (blue) and marriage (red) in France (INSEE)

According to the 2004 Demographic Report[8] by the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (Insee), the number of marriages in France had fallen each year since 2000.

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.[7]

Year[9] PACS between
same-sex couples
PACS between
opposite-sex couples
Total PACS Total marriages between
opposite-sex couples
% 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
2011 7,494 144,675 152,169 236,826 1.93
2012 6,969 153,670 160,639 245,930 1.71
2013 6,054 162,072 168,126 231,225 1.52
2014 6,262 167,469 173,731 230,770 1.55
2015 7,017 181,930 188,947 228,565 1.68
2016 7,112 184,425 191,537 225,612 1.70
2017 221,000

New Caledonia and Wallis and Futuna[edit]

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.[10] French Polynesia is the only collectivity where PACS cannot be performed.[11]

Current trends[edit]

Although the law was passed with same-sex couples in mind, the great majority of couples taking advantage have been heterosexual couples who, for one reason or another, choose civil union rather than marriage; moreover, 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).[12][13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Marseille: le pacs bientôt célébré dans les mairies socialistes Archived 2009-05-25 at the Wayback Machine, Tetu, 19 May 2009
  2. ^ 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
  3. ^ "LESBIAN/GAY LAW NOTES ISSN 8755-9021 November 1998". Retrieved 16 December 2014.
  4. ^ [1] Archived May 9, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "France ready to change civil pact". The Washington Times. Retrieved 16 December 2014.
  6. ^ "Preserve Marriage – Links". Archived from the original on 21 August 2006. Retrieved 16 December 2014.
  7. ^ a b [2] Archived December 21, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ "Insee – Population – 2004 Demographic report – Net decrease in death rates" (PDF). Retrieved 16 December 2014.
  9. ^ "Insee – Population – volution du nombre de mariages et de pacs conclus jusqu'en 2013". Retrieved 16 December 2014.
  10. ^ "New Caledonia catches up to France". 9 June 2009. Retrieved 16 December 2014.
  11. ^ "Acceptance with a friendly smile". 4 August 2009. Retrieved 16 December 2014.
  12. ^ "Straight Couples in France Are Choosing Civil Unions Meant for Gays". Retrieved 16 December 2014.
  13. ^ Sayare, Scott; Baume, Maïa de la (16 December 2010). "In France, Civil Unions Gain Favor Over Marriage". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 December 2014.

External links[edit]