With Gay Pride celebrations ramping up, the first homosexual couple to legally wed in France arrived in Tel Aviv Thursday night to spend their honeymoon as guests of the Tel Aviv Global & Tourism Administration.
Vincent Autin and Bruno Boileau were married last week in Montpellier, 10 days after France, amid violent protests, signed gay marriage into law. Their timing was great, as they arrived here in the White City to celebrate just as Pride week was kicking into full swing.
On Friday morning, after spending the night at the seaside mansion of French Ambassador Christophe Bigot, Autin and Boileau arrived at Tel Aviv’s Gan Meir for a morning of music and speeches before the annual Pride Parade.
“France has voted for the law of love,” Autin, a 40-year-old gay rights activist, told a group of reporters who gathered to greet him and his new spouse. “For us it’s very important to be a bridge, especially here in the Middle East, so that what’s happened in France, and the way we are received and embraced here, can become an example for the rest of the Middle East.”
Despite being peppered with questions about everything from their new-found celebrity to their views on in-vitro fertilization and surrogacy, the pair, who have been together for seven years, seemed at ease with the media. They had enjoyed a cocktail reception at Tel Aviv City Hall upon their arrival Thursday night, followed by dinner on Rothschild Boulevard with representatives of the city, and said they looked forward to enjoying the beach and exploring the city.
“We had heard in the media and especially in the gay media, that Tel Aviv was very gay friendly, but we only arrived last night,” Boileau, a 30-year-old civil servant, said when asked for his thoughts on Israel’s gay mecca.
It was Hila Oren, the founder and CEO of Tel Aviv Global & Tourism, who had the idea of offering the couple a Tel Aviv honeymoon. Her organization is committed to elevating Tel Aviv’s status as a true global city, one that is increasingly becoming a sought-after tourism destination as well as a leading magnet for high-tech, innovation, and international business.
“We said, ‘Come enjoy, feel the freedom around town and have the weekend on the beach, enjoy the city,’ ” she said. “Of course, the meaning beneath is our mission, to broaden the conversation about Tel Aviv, for people to know that Tel Aviv is a place of tolerance, of business and tourism, a place beyond the conflict. And it was just a coincidence, it was a week ago that they got married and this week is Gay Pride, so it was perfect.”
Officials in Israel are also hoping that, as the newlyweds bask in the sunshine and stroll along Tel Aviv’s handsome boulevards, they will also bring a positive message about France to the citizens here.
“It’s important to show that this was a difficult but successful struggle,” Ambassador Bigot said of gay marriage in France. “It’s important for Israelis … that they see through Bruno and Vincent another image of France … an image of a modern country, a moving country, one that fits the new spirit of the world.”