In efforts to verify Shams’ announcement, Nawaat contacted the association’s president, Mounir Baatour. According to Baatour, the married couple in question were a 31-year old French man and 26-year old Tunisian man not possessing dual nationality and with an Arab name. « He obtained a visa to go to France and returned to Tunisia to start the immigration process for France in accordance with the family reunification law », Baatour confirmed. He proceeded to explain that « The marriage certificate was transferred from the French town hall to the Tunisian consulate. The consulate then transferred it to the municipality where the Tunisian spouse was born, and he had it recorded on his birth certificate ».

Baatour refrained from identifying the municipality in question. « The municipality is too small and there is a risk that the Tunisian spouse will be recognized », he told us. He also explained that as the lawyer of the Tunisian spouse, Baatour is studying the possibility of removing the marriage record on the man’s birth certificate because he « fears that his family will learn that he is married to a man », as Baatour explained.

Nawaat ultimately obtained access to the Tunisian spouse’s birth certificate. It is clearly indicated that he is married to a French man. Presented with the birth certificate, Baatour asked us not to reveal the name of the municipality and other personal information so as to preserve the Tunisian spouse’s physical integrity. Nawaat’s editorial team respects physical integrity as a principle of journalistic ethics.

Contacted by Nawaat, the Minister of Local Affairs, Lotfi Zitoun, stated, « There is no centralization of information regarding marital status at the Ministry of Local Affairs. We are therefore in the process of verifying the information. The Minister of Human Rights and Relations with Civil Society Organizations sent an email to the association which announced this information in order to learn more ». He concluded, « If the information is true, it is against the law. French law does not permit recognition of same-sex marriage by Maghreb countries. There was one precedent, an error committed by the municipality of Tunis. And it was rectified ».

Promulgated in France on May 17, 2013, the law permitting marriage between two people of the same sex was followed by a circular published in the Official Bulletin of the Ministry of Justice on May 31, 2013. The circular covers conflict-of-law rules, particularly the recognition of a same-sex marriage contracted in France by foreign nationals in their countries of origin. Addressing French town halls, the circular notes that it is not possible for French homosexuals to be married to nationals from the following countries: Algeria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cambodia, Kosovo, Laos, Morocco, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia, Slovenia and Tunisia.

Following the publication of this article, the English-language outlets having diffused the initial announcement made by Shams on its Facebook page rectified the error in light of the Minister of Local Affairs’ clarifications to Nawaat.