Marine Le Pen is stepping aside as the leader of France’s National Front.
The far-right politician, who has pledged to abolish same-sex marriage, won a place in the final round of the French presidential election on Sunday.
Ms Le Pen told French TV the decision was so she could be above party political considerations.
According to the BBC, the French term she used signalled that the decision to step aside would only be temporary.
Ms Le Pen claimed the resignation was due to a “profound conviction” that the president must bring together all of the French people.
“So, this evening, I am no longer the president of the National Front. I am the candidate for the French presidency,” she told TV network France 2.
The anti-equality candidate faces an uphill challenge ahead of the second round of voting on May 7.
Polls for the final run-off currently have Le Pen at 38 percent, with Emmanuel Macron, the centrist candidate, who supports same-sex marriage, on 62 percent.
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The pair saw off Republican Francois Fillon (19.9 percent), Communist Jean-Luc Mélenchon (19.6 percent), and Socialist Benoît Hamon (6.3 percent) in the first round of voting.
In a recent manifesto, Le Pen promised to create an “improved” form of civil unions in the country to “replace” the equal marriage law passed under the current Socialist government in 2013.
The policy plan specifies that the changes would “not be retroactive”, sparing Le Pen the legal headache of trying to unpick or downgrade thousands of existing same-sex marriages, but the replacement plan would close same-sex marriage to new couples – meaning gays would once again only be able to enter civil partnerships.
It would be a return to the former status quo for France, which only permitted same-sex couples to enter a contractual form of civil union (PACS) from 1999 until 2013.
Russian government-controlled outlets previously published homophobic smears aimed at Macron, who is often touted as a ‘unity’ centrist candidate, reporting a “persistent rumour that [Macron] is secretly gay and living a ‘double life’”, and also accusing him of being in the pocket of a “very wealthy gay lobby”.
The politician, who has been married to his former school teacher Brigitte Trogneux since 2007, attacked the smears in his Têtu interview.
He said: “Two things are vile behind the implication: to say that it is not possible for a man living with an older woman to be anything other than a homosexual or a hidden gigolo is misogynistic. And it’s also homophobia. If I had been a homosexual, I would say it and I would live it.”