Gay Paris Mayor Visits SF

by Cynthia Laird
Wednesday Oct 10, 2012

The gay mayor of Paris visited San Francisco last week and signed an updated sister city agreement, visited the headquarters of Twitter, and went to the Castro.

In an interview with the Bay Area Reporter , Bertrand Delanoë also talked about France's move toward legalizing same-sex marriage and his plans for the last year and a half of his term.

Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoë, left, and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee are all smiles after signing a new sister city agreement last week at City Hall. (Photo: Bill Wilson)
Delanoë, 62, said he is excited about bringing new high tech business to Paris, and noted that the founder of Twitter would be going to Paris. He discussed incubators - spaces common in Silicon Valley where startups can work with nominal overhead costs.

"Young startups find office space in Paris ... and pay almost no rent so they can develop and find their own place and spread. At the same time we want business from California," Delanoë said through B.A.R. publisher Thomas E Horn, who served as translator during the interview. Horn is also the chair of the San Francisco-Paris Sister City Committee and accompanied the mayor to various appointments during his stay.

The new sister city agreement, Delanoë explained, merely updates the long-standing agreement between two world-class cities. Delanoë said that under the memorandum of understanding that he and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee signed, "we're moving things to more relevant ... the 21st century" with "resources necessary" for economic development to "create a favorable atmosphere for business, science, and research."

"To profit from the best experiences of each city," he added.

Marriage equality

Delanoë has been mayor of Paris since 2001. He survived an assassination attempt a year later when he was stabbed and won re-election to a six-year term in 2008. He is a member of the Socialist Party, as is his friend, Francois Hollande, who was elected president of France in May. Hollande promised if he was elected that the law banning same-sex marriage and adoption of children by same-sex couples would change and he is now making good on his commitment, Delanoë said.

"He's reaffirmed that position," the mayor said. "The law is in the process of being written."

The new law, expected to be adopted in early 2013, would make all rights equal for married couples of the same sex and the process for adopting children would be the same for gay or straight parents.

Delanoë said he's urged Hollande to "hurry up" on the changes "because I'm not going to be mayor much longer."

Civil unions are currently allowed but now a majority of people in France support marriage equality, the mayor said.

Delanoë said that he wants to use his remaining time in office to continue working on social issues such as lodging and low-cost housing. He plans to convert roads along the Seine to pedestrian walkways that, he said, are "more friendly for tourists and pedestrians."

He also has plans for two more cultural centers in the city and wants to finish an important housing and child care project.

Delanoë noted that before he became mayor people were leaving Paris and the city was showing its age. Now, there are 110,000 additional people living in the city, he said.

He said that he does not have plans to run for another office, because there's only one post higher - the presidency - and it's currently occupied by his good friend Hollande.

But he may be coming to San Francisco more often, he laughed.

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