By Hugh Logue, Newswatch Editor
The French constitutional court, has upheld a ban on gay marriage following a challenge by a lesbian couple with four children.
The couple, who are already in a civil partnership, argued that the prohibition of same sex marriage is contrary to the right to freely marry, the right to lead a normal family life and the right to equal treatment.
However, the court held the right to freely marry does not prohibit the government from defining the conditions of marriage so long as these conditions do not violate other constitutional rights.
As regards the right to lead a normal family life, the court ruled that this right does not mean that same-sex couples can marry as they are free to live with a partner or enter into a civil partnership.
Finally regarding the principle of equality, the court ruled that by maintaining the definition of marriage as a union of one man and one woman, the legislature could rightly justify different treatment within the law.
The couple, Corinne Cestino and Sophie Hasslauer, have been living together for 15 years and are raising their four children.
Speaking to the AFP news agency the couple said: "Marriage is the only solution in terms of protecting our children, sharing parental authority, settling inheritance problems and eventual custody if one of us were to die."
The French ruling comes as a challenge against the UK's ban on gay marriage and straight civil partnerships has been filed at the European Court of Human Rights this week by gay rights group the Equal Love Campaign.