Arnaud and Aurélie are in love. They’ve lived together for years and they just decided they want to be together forever.
So they trotted down to Marseille’s Palais de Justice and got PACSed by a clerk.
PACS is the French appellation for a perfunctory procedure authorized by the nation’s 10 year-old Civil Solidarity Pact that validates their togetherness legally and socially without the implication of permanence conveyed by marriage.
“It’s a first step toward marriage,” Arnaud told the Washington Post after the 15 minute procedure ended and he headed back to work.
France’s government had introduced PACS to legalize unions among gay couples since French law does not permit them to marry. But the law was not made specific for gay couples, and heterosexual couples have been leveraging PACS’ advantages ever since.
PACSed couples can file joint income tax returns and have an easier time navigating inheritance laws and establishing a legal residence, among other things.
PACS is also perceived to be a declaration of independence from calcified social traditions and best of all, it can be terminated by either party with a short written note.
And that’s it: no divorce proceedings, no claims to the other’s property and no alimony.
The number of PACS has exploded from 6,000 to 140,000 in the decade since the law passed. That’s half as many as the number of marriages taking place in France. Nearly 92% of PACSed couples are heterosexual.
Oh and in France nowadays, more than half of all babies are born out of wedlock. Last month, the unmarried Justice Minister had a baby, and Ségolène Royal, the Socialist Party candidate that lost to Nicolas Sarkozy is an unmarried mother of 4.