Archive for the ‘Society’ Category

Husbands for life

July 21, 2008
Larry and Steve claim their happiness to the world after the wedding.

I had a very moving day a few days ago on July 10th. My friends Steve and Larry got married at the San Francisco City Hall. Attending a gay wedding as my first wedding in the US was of course interesting and different, for the least. I live in San Francisco, after all…But it actually was way more than that. I witnessed the consecration of 19 years of love between two exceptional individuals who made the commitment to love and support each other for better and for worse, in health and in sickness, in wealth and in poverty, for no less than six times to this date!


The French in me – meaning the political animal – would say: come on people, why does it have to be this hard for two persons who love each other and don’t harm anyone to be allowed to officially claim their love? Why does it have to take so long for them to be granted some basic human rights to protect each of them in case the worst happens to one of them? Is it because of the Bible? Because if it is, I beg you to remember that Jesus loved all his children: the poor, the ugly, the sick, the prostitutes. Is loving someone when you are the same sex such an evil act? I don’t intend to shock or to be provocative. I am just a sensitive woman who thinks there are worst things happening in this world that deserve skepticism, moral disapproval and punishment. And many of them don’t.

First ceremony in 1989. They climbed a mountaintop in a red-rock box-canyon in Sedona and exchanged their vows and a ring at the top.

This being said, let’s go back to my friends. 19 years of love, it matters. It’s more time than my parents stayed married after all. And boy, do these guys love each other… When Steve and Larry met in 1989 they had their first commitment ceremony on a mountaintop in a red-rock box-canyon in Sedona, AZ. They exchanged their vows and a ring during a spiritual ceremony after hiking up with their friends. Larry and Steve, after exchanging their vows in Sedona in 1989.

1989. Larry and Steve have just met.

1989. Larry and Steve have just met.

Then they moved to San Francisco for Steve to pursue his studies. On Valentine’s Day 1991, they made their second commitment and registered as domestic partners. San Francisco was the first city and county in the US to give this right to same-sex couples in the name of equal rights. This small ceremony at the City Hall allowed Larry to take advantage of Steve’s insurance coverage, which was better than his.
In April 2003, the same right was also granted by the State of California, in an extended version. My friends made their third commitment and registered as domestic partners at the State level. They had a small ceremony at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center. This new legislation granted them more rights regarding medical matters, taxes and inheritance but also specified their responsibilities as a couple in the eyes of the law. According to Steve, the thousand or more rights defined in this legislation “made a big difference.”

Then on Valentine’s Day of 2004, the Revolution started. Appalled by George Bush’s declaration saying he intended to change the Federal Constitution to put an end to gay marriage, San Francisco’s freshly elected mayor Gavin Newson decided to uphold the State Constitution. In the name of non discrimination against gay and lesbians he announced he would start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The world media turned their cameras this way and San Francisco became even more than it had ever been the symbol of tolerance for some, a new Sodom and Gomorra for others. But for same-sex couples from all over the country, the Far West had never been so close: they rushed to San Francisco’s City Hall from all four corners of the US.

Steve and Larry are getting married on July 10th, 2008.

Steve and Larry are getting married on July 10th, 2008.

Steve and Larry were living nearby. They decided to go down to get married. They both were moved by the incredible outpouring of support from everybody who was there. “We were making History. We had to stand for that, remembers Steve. It felt very personal and for the first time it put a new face of what a gay couple looked like and the normality of us showing our love. It was love first and foremost.” Five hours and a half later, they were married. That was the 4th time they officially committed to each other.
A few months later Steve and Larry attended the Glide Memorial Church wedding celebration acknowledging the 4 432 same-sex marriages that took place during those exhilarating times. It was their 5th official ceremony. Unfortunately, the Federal Supreme Court decided otherwise and declared these marriages invalid on the ground that Gavin Newson lacked the authority to issue same-sex marriage licenses. 
Four years later, this past May, the California Supreme Court rendered a decision saying that it is a fundamental Constitutional right to marry and that the gender is not a legitimate basis upon which to deny this legal right. San Francisco started celebrating same-sex marriages again. And Steve and Larry made their 6th official commitment, on Thursday, July 10th 2008, in front of their friends and family. “And this time it’s in every way legal because of the Supreme Court decision, smiles Steve. No one can take that away from us”.

Nothing else but love.

Nothing else but love.

Beyond the political aspect of this long struggle that will go on probably until next November, in my eyes Steve and Larry’s marriage on July 10th is the apotheosis of a unique love story. It is the conclusion of 19 years of patience against discrimination, 19 years of hope to be granted the same rights as other couples, 19 years of pure love that no legal institution will ever be competent to measure or comment upon. And from my point of view it deserves absolutely nothing else than respect.





American tourists complain even more than French ones!

June 16, 2008

The last posting (below) cited a study by Expedia France which found that the French are regarded as the worst tourists not only in Europe, but even within France itself (ouch!). But never fear, American tourists did manage to get gold medals in a couple of the individual events, so to speak. For example, take the category of “Complainers” in the opinion poll. The medal goes to American tourists: 33% of the survey respondents labeled them as never satisfied, showing a strong lead over both the Germans and French (both at 12%).


American tourists are also considered as the least trendy dressers (29%), way ahead of the Chinese and Russians (both 5%). Apparently personal comfort is considered more important than projecting an impressive image. And another “honor” shared with the French: North American hotel owners name American tourists as behaving the worst, in their own country. However–and this should be very reassuring–Americans apparently put on a better attitude when traveling to Europe, where they are classified the 3rd most appreciated tourists (behind Japanese and Germans). On a world-wide scale, unfortunately, Americans only rank 11th-best.


Americans are also the most adventurous in terms of culinary experiences, as their appetite and pleasure to discover new tastes make international cooks particularly happy. All over the world hotel owners are also fond of them because they usually spend the most.


And by the way, the best tourists in the world are the Japanese: they come before Germans and Canadians for their general attitude, their politeness and courtesy, the fact they never complain and their level of spending. Only downside: they don’t seem to like what they eat. Can somebody tell me if that also applies if they are given French food?  




French pride gets hit by a study about travelers’ behavior

June 16, 2008

It looks like French cultural exception is not so much appreciated in the rest of the world.  The results of a study conducted towards 4,000 hotels in Germany, UK, France, Italy, Canada and the US about international travelers behavior was just released by Expedia France. French tourists are seen as the worst travelers in Europe: constant complainers, impolite, cheap, and incapable to speak another language are the main flaws attributed to the French by hotel owners. But there is worse: French travelers are even considered the worst tourists in their own country! That hurts…

At the world level, fortunately, there is worse than us. French are beaten by Chinese and Indians in the Top 3 of worst travelers. We complain too much, Chinese are pointed at for their look and their lack of interest in local food, and Indians seem to have a different idea of hygiene according to hotel owners. All of them are also considered spending too little when they travel.

There are however a few departments in which French travelers are appreciated. We seem to be the 3rd most interested nation in local food and the second one most well dressed, behind the Italians, needless to say. What a surprise!

Velib’, the new French Revolution

June 16, 2008

During my recent trip to Paris I was very impressed with the numerous stations of the new bicycle rentals system, Velib’, spread out across the city. I also felt that Parisian traffic was less congested than since my previous visit 6 months ago. Velib’ is a self-service bicycle rental program which was launched in July 2007. The service offers 20,600 bicycles and 1,451 automated stations: one about every 300 meters!



How does it work? Available 24/7 the service is very simple as users can take a bicycle in one station and put it back in another. They first need to take out a subscription by the day, week or year, which allows them an unlimited number of rentals. The price is respectively 1, 5 or 29 euros. Bike rental is free of charge for the first half-hour, then costs 1 to 4 euros every 30 minutes. This is a very cheap service, since the average trip only lasts 18 minutes. In order to avoid thefts each user has to pay a security deposit of 150 euros.



So far, 20 million rides happened with an average of 70,000 trips each day. Users are 58% male, 40% are between 26 and 35 years old and one third come from the suburb. Asked why they love Velib’ they consider it’s a great way to beat traffic, to stay healthy and to be free. It’s also unbeatable to reduce pollution. As a matter of fact 20% use their car less…


Good news: The program is starting to spread. It was introduced last month in Washington DC under the name of “SmartBike DC”. In this time of gas price increase let’s hope this service will soon be available everywhere in the US.

Taxi-bikes: You can’t stop progress…

June 10, 2008

© CitybirdLike many other capitals, Paris suffers from a congested traffic. That’s how a new transportation system appeared in 2000 to ease movements of business travelers: the taxi-bike. A professional driver, a helmet, gloves and a jacket are usually provided for more comfort and safety for an average cost of 55 euros. Several companies operate in France, such as Motocab, Skoot and the well-named Citybird in Paris. This company already transporParistravelbiketed over 50 000 people since 2003. The French railway company, SNCF, recently made a partnership with Citybird to offer bike trips to professional travelers in every parisian railway station. Prices start at 25 euros. First class passengers are expected by the driver at the end of their train platform and their luggage is being taken care of. Registration can be made on-line on the website or by calling (33) 1 58 82 29 11.

This transportation system is not new to developing countries such as Thailand and Brazil. In Europe, London opened the bal but was quickly surpassed by Paris where 200 taxi-bikes are in activity.

For more info (in French) on taxi-bikes check the blog: