Gay deputy quits France’s far-right Front National
The Front National’s second-in-command Florian Philippot has dramatically quit the party after an internal feud.
Florian Philppot had been one of many gay politicians in senior positions in far-right and nationalist parties across Europe, next to Alice Weidel of Germany’s AfD, and UKIP’s Deputy Leader Peter Whittle.
The politician was one of the closest advisers to Marine Le Pen’s Presidential campaign, and had also served as one of the party’s five vice presidents.
He was key to the party’s attempts to court conservative gay voters over fears about Islam, seeking to downplay allegations of homophobia within the party despite its anti-LGBT policies.
But Philippot quit the party today, after a row with rivals that had seen him stripped of much of his power.
He told France 2: “They told me that I was the vice president of nothing… I don’t like ridicule, and I have never liked doing nothing, so of course I am leaving the Front National.”
Philippot had been 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 [then-President] Hollande.”
He later confirmed he is gay.
The party has been accused of fostering homophobic violence by aligning itself with aggressive anti-equal marriage factions and violent groups.
But Philippot 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”.
Hardline National Front suppoerters had 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”, Jean-Marie Le Pen 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 Socialist government in 2013.
A poll by gay hook-up app Hornet in March found that despite her proposals to tone down rights for same-sex couples, a large number of gay men continued to back the anti-immigration candidate.
Of the 3200 men polled by the app, 19.2% said they would vote for Le Pen, just below the 21% she polled nationally.
A more considerable 38.1% said they preferred victorious candidate Emmanuel Macron, who vowed to champion LGBT rights.