France’s highest court has ruled that the marriage of two men is unlawful and should be annulled.

Stephane Charpin and Bertrang Charpentier were married in Begles, a small town in Bordeaux, in 2004.

They are the only same-sex couple in France to have married, rather than undertaken a Civil Solidarity Pact.

The government announced in 2004 that their union was illegal, and that decision has been finalised in court today.

After the initial ruling, the couple took their case to the appeals court in Bordeaux, who asserted that “under French law, marriage is a union between a man and a woman.”

That decision was verified today by the Court of Cassation, France’s highest appeals court.

At an earlier court case Prosecutor Marc Domingo said that parliament should have the final word in homosexual couples marrying, and not judges.

The couple have said before that if this hearing fails they will take their case to the European Court of Human Rights, but it is not known if they have decided to do so.

French same-sex couples who enter into Civil Solidarity Pacts already enjoy many of the rights that heterosexual married couples have, although couples are not able to adopt or have artificial insemination.

Discrimination against gay men and women has been illegal in France since 1985. In 2006, a Ipsos survey shows that 62% of French people support gay marriage, while only 37% were opposed.

But on the issue of same-sex couples adopting children the survey found opposition with 55% saying gay and lesbian couples should not have parenting rights, while 44% believe same-sex couples should be able to adopt.

Same-sex marriage has become an issue in the French Presidential elections in April.

Socialist candidate Ségolène Royal has said that if elected, she would legalise same-sex marriage, while the conservative UMP party candidate Nicolas Sarkozy opposes same-sex marriages.