French authorities ban parents from calling baby boy ‘Amber’

French authorities have refused to let a couple name their newborn boy Amber because the child might suffer from unclear sexual identity.

Amber – or Ambre in French – has now joined a growing list of names such as Nutella, Strawberry, and Manhattan that have fallen foul of French courts who deem them unsuitable and potentially damaging.

The couple from the Morbihan department of Brittany had the child in January this year. But when they went to officially register his birth, the registrar reported them to the prosecutor in the town of Lorient, who decided that as Ambre was usually a girl’s name the risk of confusion over the child’s sex might prove damaging to him.

The parents were ordered to appear in a family court but the judge said she saw no grounds for forcing them to change their child’s name. The prosecutor however decided to appeal, and the baby’s name will remain in limbo at least until next April when the case is likely to come back before the court.

The child’s mothers, who are backed by Les Enfants d’Arc-en-Ciel, a group promoting the rights of gay parents, have questioned whether they are the victims of homophobia.

“Society is very unfair,” said one of the boy’s mothers Alice Gondelle. “It allows ridiculous first names like ‘Clitorine.’ I wonder why it is that with a name as classic and ancient (as Ambre) can’t get through and it is the state that is attacking us in the courts?” 

Amber, which is derived from the translucent fossil resin used in jewelry making, is a popular girl’s name in English-speaking countries, especially the United States, but its French equivalent Ambre is relatively rare in France. It is largely seen as a female name, but Ms Gondelle said in a post on her Facebook page that she knew of 37 male Ambres in France.

French officials have a long track record of knocking back names they do not approve of. In 2015, a court ruled that a couple could not call their daughter Nutella as it might “lead to mockery and unpleasant remarks.” The same court had made similar arguments a few months earlier before overturning the decision of another couple to name their child Fraise (Strawberry).

Last year a couple was told to find another name for their baby after a court ruled they could not use the name they wanted because it contained the an accented letter, “ñ”.

The French language does not use the tilde accented, but the couple from Brittany had picked a traditional but obscure name from the Breton language – Fañch.

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