Meet the gay man masterminding Marine Le Pen’s bid to be French president
Marine Le Pen could be the French president in less than two weeks.
The National Front (FN) candidate came second in the first round of voting last week and will face Emmanuel Macron – the centrist, pro-equality candidate – in the second and final vote on May 7.
One group of people who helped put Le Pen through to the second round is gay men, who voted National Front in bigger numbers than ever before.
One in five gay men said they intended to vote for Le Pen when polled ahead of the first round of voting.
The architect of Le Pen’s astounding journey to the cusp of power is Florian Philppot – himself a gay man.
Philppot is Le Pen’s deputy in the far-right party, which strongly opposes same-sex marriage rights.
He is also reported to be her closest adviser, with the Guardian writing that the pair, “are in complete agreement on basic principles”.
Philippot is credited with executing Le Pen’s plan to sanitise the Front National’s image in recent years, helping her tone down its rhetoric and widen electoral support.
He has been charged with banishing associations with anti-semitism, racism and xenophobia, which some argue are inherent to its nationalist worldview.
Mr Philippot was “outed” as gay by French Closer magazine (not related to the British version) in 2014, after it published photographs of him holidaying with another man.
Le Pen has spoke up to defend her deputy leader when the outing happened, saying: “This is a very serious infringement of an individual’s privacy.
“This type of behaviour is unbearable – Florian Philippot is entitled to a private life as much as [President] Hollande.”
The party has been accused of fostering homophobic violence by aligning itself with aggressive anti-equal marriage factions and violent groups.
But the party’s gay deputy refutes the idea it is homophobic: “Not at all, and I mean that,” he told the Guardian in January of this year.
“We’re a party that doesn’t care about people’s preferences, their sexual practices or whatever.
“You’re a French citizen foremost. And the Front National is a very young party: the members, the voters, the candidates are young. This is a modern party.”
This is despite Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine’s father and founder of FN, posting a homophobic slur to Twitter with a photo of Philppot dressed as a knight at an event.
The party founder also labelled homosexuality “a biological and social anomaly”.
Philppot is not the only gay adviser to the presidential wannabe.
Hardline National Front suppoerters have even come to complain of a “damaging gay lobby” being at the heart of the party.
“Gays are like salt in soup, if there’s none at all, it’s a bit bland. If there’s too much, it’s undrinkable”, Philppot said.
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.
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A poll by gay hook-up app Hornet in March found that despite her proposals to tone down rights for same-sex couples, gay men have continued to back the anti immigration candidate.
Of the 3200 men polled by the app, 19.2% said they are voting for Le Pen, just below the 21% she polled nationally.
A more considerable 38.1% said they prefer centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron, who has vowed to champion LGBT rights.
The recent murder of a gay police officer in Paris, which Islamic State claimed responsibility for, could strenghten Le Pen’s anti-Muslim rhetorric, which has struck a chord with a section of the LGBT community.
The final round of voting will take place in under two weeks.
Le Pen faces an uphill battle – she is currently polling at 38% to Macron’s 62% in the run-off.
But if she does pull of an extraordinary victory in the fifth republic, it could well be the votes of white gay men that pushed her over the finish line.
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