The French Secretary of State for Parliamentary Relations has revealed he is gay in an interview ahead of the publication of his autobiography.

Roger Karoutchi is a close personal friend of President Nicholas Sarkozy and a former MEP and Senator.

“Yes, I have a life,” he told AFP.

“I’m neither living a lie, nor flaunting anything. I discuss it naturally.

“I have a partner and I’m happy with him. As I’m happy, I see no reason why I should hide that.”

Mr Karoutchi becomes the first openly gay minister in France.

The Mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, is one of the few out gay people in French politics and is a possible candidate for the Presidency in 2012.

Unlike the UK, the French press rarely report on the personal lives of politicians.

During his 2007 Presidential campaign Mr Sarkozy made some positive references to gay rights, though he reiterated his opposition to gay marriage.

Speaking to La Liberation newspaper Mr Sarkozy said the Roman Catholic church’s position on gays was shocking.

“I was born heterosexual. I have never questioned myself about the choice of my sexuality.

“That is why the church’s position, which consists of saying “Homosexuality is a sin,” is shocking,” he told the newspaper.

“One doesn’t choose one’s identity. One has the identity that one has.”

Mr Sarkozy also shared his opinions on the nature of sexuality:

“Not everything depends on nurture, but that part could be nature. In what proportion? I am not a scientist.

“For example, when I was a child I was shocked because people explained to me, when a child was homosexual: “His mother was wrong, she slept with him.”

“When a child was anorexic, people said: “The father was absent.”

“When a child was autistic, people said: “Oh! The parents got divorced, that caused a shock.” Since then we know that autism is genetic.

“I think that sexuality also is an identity.”