In 1999, when the French legalized civil unions (pacte civil de solidarité or PACS) they were intended as a compromise with the demand for legalized gay marriages, offering a legal relationship almost like marriage, but not quite. No one, though, anticipated how many heterosexual couples would make use of the new law. No one in 1999 would have predicted that by 2009, the overwhelming majority of French civil unions would be between straight couples. For whatever reason, heterosexual French couples are increasingly shunning traditional marriages and opting instead for civil unions. Last year in France there were two civil unions for every three marriages between heterosexual couples.
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