President Emmanuel Macron of France will face far-right rabble-rouser Marine Le Pen in the presidential election this week – and the future of LGBT+ rights is in the balance.
For many people in France, there is almost a sense of déjà-vu ahead of the run-off vote on Sunday (24 April).
The upcoming presidential run-off has once again seen Macron, of the centre-right La République En Marche party, and Rassemblement National party candidate Le Pen on the ballot. Bringing back a choice that the French already made in 2017.
The two candidates advanced to the second round of voting earlier this month, with Macron leading with 27.85 per cent of the vote and Le Pen snapping at his heels with 23.15 per cent.
Neither of the candidates’ campaigns have particularly touched on LGBT+ rights the second time around. Nevertheless, for LGBT+ voters and activist groups, it’s vital that the community goes to the ballot.
Ensuring Marine Le Pen does not wrest off away France’s most powerful political office from Macron is simply too important not to vote, they told PinkNews.
Marine Le Pen’s electoral rise should be a ‘concern to LGBT+ people’
A politician with ties to Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Hungary’s Victor Orbán entering the Élysée Palace could threaten the leaps the country has made, Gatipon Matthieu, the 38-year-old spokesperson for the national advocacy group Inter-LGBT, said.
As much as she has taken calculated steps to soften her image, such as no longer pledging to revoke marriage equality, Marine Le Pen’s anti-immigrant, “anti-wokeism” and nationalist platform remains a threat to queer rights.
Le Pen, 53, is one of the nation’s most back-bitingly anti-LGBT+ politicians in France. She has opposed, among other things, marriage equality, same-sex adoption and same-sex surrogacy.
The Rassemblement National, once a fringe group, has long been dogged by allegations of homophobia, racism and antisemitism. Its founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen, has described being gay as a biological anomaly as well as a “personal choice” and said “paedophilia” has its “roots … in the admiration of homosexuality”.
French LGBT+ voters said Marine Le Pen winning the presidential election would imperil LGBT+ rights. (Chesnot/Getty Images)
“The presence of Marine Le Pen in the second round of the presidential election is a factor of concern for LGBT+ people in France,” Mattheiru, who is also president of LGBT+ centre Coleaurs Gaies, said.
“The far-right candidate has spoken out against equal rights for LGBT+ people during debates over the openness of marriage. She is also hostile to PMA [procréation médicalement assistée, or assisted fertilisation].
“The proximity of the Rassemblement National candidate to leaders like Victor Orbàn and Vladimir Putin allows us to affirm that her election would be a very bad thing for LGBT+ people.”
To some LGBT+ voters, France’s presidential election is more an unpopularity contest than anything. Elli Tessier, a 28-year-old non-binary energy engineer, views Macron as someone who “does not really care about LGBT+ people”.
But he dislikes Marine Le Pen a lot more – and for good reason.
“Le Pen recently said that she wouldn’t go back on gay marriage for French people,” they said, “but it could be a complete disaster for trans people, as the TERF movement in France is rather close to the far-right.
“The far-right is also already violent against women, especially lesbians, bisexuals, trans people and LGBT+ people of colour. If she would be elected, that could get even worse.”
Voting for Emmanuel Macron can ‘save lives’, says non-binary voter
Tessier gave Emmanuel Macron some credit. He voiced their appreciation for La République En Marche MP Laurence Vanceunebrock-Mialon, who spearheaded a conversion therapy ban passed unanimously by both houses last year.
MP Guillaume Chiche, then a lawmaker for La République En Marche, also legalised assisted reproduction for lesbian couples.
Issues of legal recognition for non-binary people and outlawing cruel intersex surgeries remain in France, but Tessier doesn’t expect Macron’s government to consider either a top priority.
“So even though there won’t be major steps forward for the rights of LGBT+ people in France if Macron is re-elected, it can save lives to put a Macron ballot (or at least to not vote Marine Le Pen) on Sunday,” Tessier said.
Among the more than 65,400,000 people eligible to vote in France is Thomas Miani, a 30-year-old Deliveroo administrator who has moved to Manchester, England. He said that many of his family are voting for Le Pen. He’s not too surprised.
To his family, a vote for Le Pen is to tackle “far bigger issues” than LGBT+ rights, such as the economy, the Russo-Ukraine war and the rising cost of living crisis. “At which point I like to call them out and thank them for thinking of me as a lesser citizen just because of my sexuality,” he said.
A vote for president Emmanuel Macron, one LGBT+ voter said, was a vote to ‘save lives’. (Kiran Ridley/Getty Images)
“I fear this conversation, as tame as it is, isn’t just an isolated case of me versus them.”
Macron, meanwhile, has long been a “brilliant supporter” of LGBT+ rights, Miani said. Again, he cited Macron overseeing a long-sought ban on conversion therapy as an example of his steady support.
At 8pm on Sunday, French news outlets will work together will pollsters to publish the projected winner. Official results are published on the Interior Ministry website.
If Macron loses to Le Pen, she will have until 13 May to take office. It’s an outcome that shudders fear into Miani, especially given that polls suggest the race will be a tight one.
Miani said that though Macron’s lead is far less than his winning margin five years ago, what matters to him is that enough voters come out to vote against Le Pen. A rejection of not just Le Pen, but her party’s history, platform and ideology.
“I think as citizens, we need to educate others that sometimes it’s better to have the best of the worst choices rather than suffer through the absolute worst just because you wanted to prove a point and be stubborn,” he said.
“Unfortunately, we’re not taught how to vote, just who to follow.”