One in three French gays are voting for a Presidential candidate who has pledged to abolish same-sex marriage.
Centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron is set to face off against far-right Front National leader Marine Le Pen in France’s Presidential run-off election on Sunday.
Le Pen has recently made inroads with white conservative gay voters by playing off concerns about Islamic extremism, despite her manifesto promise to scrap same-sex marriage.
Polling ahead of the first round of voting has suggested 20 percent of gay voters would lend their support for Le Pen, in a wide field of candidates.
But now the race narrowed to just two candidates, new data suggests she has surged in support among the gay community.
Hornet, which is the most popular gay hook-up app in France, polled 5000 gay men ahead of the second-round vote.
The poll found that 63.5 percent of gay men will be voting for Emmanuel Macron, but 36.5 percent are backing Marine Le Pen.
Younger gay men, many of whom are too young to remember the long and fraught battle for LGBT equality in the country, are more supportive of the anti-gay marriage candidate, whose party fought tooth-and-nail against progress.
Among gay men aged 18 to 29, support for Le Pen surges to 43.5 percent, behind Macron on 56.5 percent.
The sentiment towards Le Pen is different among older gay men. For men aged 30 to 49, support for Le Pen plunges to 32.2 percent, with 67.8 percent backing Macron.
Hornet adds :”[In the older] age group, the respondents knew the Front National before Marine Le Pen took over in 2010 with her attempt to de-demonize the extreme right party.
“They may recall her father Jean-Marie Le Pen’s homophobic and serophobic remarks. For example, he explained in the 1980s that people living with HIV should be locked up.”
The poll found that a lot of support for Le Pen comes from voters who supported other candidates in the first round.
21.46 percent of poll respondents backed Le Pen in the first round. 15 percent of respondents voted for a different candidate in the first round, but have switched to Le Pen after the race narrowed.
In her manifesto Le Pen promises to create an “improved” form of civil unions in the country to “replace” the equal marriage law passed under the current Socialist government.
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.
Paradoxically, her party also includes some of the highest-profile gay politicians in France.
The architect of Le Pen’s astounding journey to the cusp of power is her deputy Florian Philppot.
In 2014 Philippot was ‘outed’ as gay by French Closer magazine, which published photographs of him holidaying with another man.
Philippot, who has since spoken about his sexuality publicly, has led the outreach to gay voters, insisting: “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.”
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Macron, a supporter of LGBT rights, dedicated an entire section of his manifesto to LGBT issues.
In it he pledged to challenge homophobic in everyday life, and to tackle anti-LGBT discrimination in the workplace.
The candidate said he would scale up random checks of employers’ compliance with equality laws, while also “naming and shaming” those found to have discriminated.
He also promises to defend progress on equal marriage, hailing the law as a “fundamental achievement” of the past five years and an “an enrichment of what the family is in France that shows its importance to all of us”.
Elsewhere in the document he commits to opening up IVF and medically assisted fertility treatments to single women and female same-sex couples.
In one key concession, the former Socialist minister rules out reform of France’s strict surrogacy laws, any changes to which would be strongly opposed by the centre-right members of his unity coalition.
However, he does pledge to ensure that families with children born via international surrogacy will have their full rights protected, adding that it is wrong to “treat these children as foreigners in their own country”.
The run-off election takes place on Sunday.