As France picks its next president on Sunday, National Front nominee Marine Le Pen, 48, enjoys significant support among an unlikely population: gay voters.
According to a survey released Wednesday by Hornet, a gay social network, among 5,224 respondents, 36.5 percent back Le Pen, while 63.5 percent favor former Socialist-party member and reputed centrist Emmanuel Macron, 39. Among Hornet’s younger subscribers, 43.5 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds want Le Pen, as do fully 49 percent of those age 25.
While Le Pen surely would appreciate even higher numbers, pundits are surprised that the so-called far-right candidate does this well with typically left-leaning voters. Two factors may explain this phenomenon: Le Pen’s previously hostile party now welcomes gays, and militant-Islamic attacks inside and outside of France have ushered them into Le Pen’s largely open arms.
Le Pen’s support is just 20 percent among French gays aged 50-plus, Hornet reports. They are old enough to remember the National Front of Jean-Marie Le Pen, 88, the father of today’s presidential nominee. Excoriated as an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier, Le Pen the Elder advocated quarantining AIDS patients in the 1980s. He called homosexuality a “biological and social anomaly” and also declared: “There are no queens in the National Front.”
After Marine Le Pen wrested control of the party from Jean-Marie in 2011, her approach basically has been, This is not my father’s National Front.
She booted her dad from the party in 2015 and, after one of his recent outbursts, she told the newspaper Le Parisien, “My father was kicked out of the National Front. He does whatever he wants. It doesn’t concern me anymore. . . . I don’t talk to him, and I’m not responsible for him or his inadmissible remarks.”
Marine Le Pen’s process of “un-demonization” of the National Front has included denouncing anti-Semitism, appealing to Jewish voters, avoiding mass protests against gay marriage (although her party’s platform promises to scrap it), and choosing gay men Florian Philippot as her chief deputy and Sébastien Chenu as her leading adviser. The party’s higher-profile activists include former fashion models Matthieu Chartraire and Bruno Clavet, both of whom are gay men.
“Marine Le Pen’s National Front has more top aides who are publicly known to be gay than any other French political party,” the Associated Press concluded last month. Asked about these openly gay men in his daughter’s inner circle, Jean-Marie Le Pen replied: “Homosexuals are like salt in soup: If there is none at all it is a bit bland. If there is too much, it is undrinkable.”
Marine’s efforts to defy her dad and create a kinder, gentler National Front have boosted the party’s stature among gay voters. In April 2012’s presidential election, 26 percent of gay Parisians voted for Marine Le Pen, versus just 16 percent of their heterosexual counterparts who did so. A third of gays who married after same-sex nuptials were legalized in 2013 reportedly voted for National Front contenders in 2015’s regional contests.
Many of these “homonationalists,” as they have been dubbed, applaud Le Pen’s straight talk about Islamic fundamentalism’s existential challenge to French lives and lifestyles. In light of the November 2015 ISIS terror attacks that killed 130 in Paris, Tunisian immigrant Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel’s truck rampage that murdered 86 pedestrians in Nice last July 14, a suspected terrorist’s deadly shootings of police on the Champs-Élyseés last month, and other acts of Muslim-extremist bloodshed, Le Pen said, “Islamism is a monstrous totalitarian ideology that has declared war on our nation, on reason, on civilization.”
“This war is being waged without pity and without respite,” she continued. “The response must be total across the entire country. . . . I call for the awakening of our people’s ancient soul, capable of opposing a bloodthirsty barbarism.”
“In France, we respect women. We don’t beat them. We don’t ask them to hide themselves behind a veil as if they were impure,” she told a campaign rally last month. “We drink wine when we want. We can criticize religion and speak freely.”
Le Pen also wants to renew border checks and eject foreigners who are on France’s terror-watch list. (Far from “far right,” these steps are common sense.)
“Where are the gays most in danger? In Islamic countries,” a Parisian named Pascale told the BBC in April. “Gay people are being crucified. It’s a danger, and I don’t want it coming to France, definitely not.”
Violent Muslim-extremist homophobia has battered France for years.
• Bertrand Delanoë is an openly gay Socialist-party leader. While serving as mayor of Paris, Delanoë was stabbed in the stomach by Azedine Berkane, a devout Muslim and son of Algerian immigrants, at Paris’s City Hall in October 2002. Delanoë survived after two weeks in the hospital.
Jean-Claude Dauvel of Paris’s prosecutor’s office told journalists that Berkane “explained his strong religious views made him reject homosexuality as unnatural.”
“He was a bit like us,” one of Berkane’s neighbors told Le Monde. “We’re all homophobic, because it’s not natural.”
Berkane was detained in a psychiatric hospital, but doctors discharged him as non-threatening. In April 2007, he missed a follow-on medical appointment and went AWOL.
• “Up until 2005, Bordeaux was a very gay-friendly city,” Patrick McCarthy told Britain’s The Spectator. “Same-sex couples could openly walk down the street holding hands without any problems,” the Bordeaux resident continued. “However, in the space of two months, five gay men were murdered in the city. The blame was put on Bordeaux’s Muslim community, since some of these hate crimes were carried out by people of Arabic origins.”
• Dutch librarian Wilfred de Bruijn lives and works in Paris. In April 2013, he and his boyfriend, Olivier Couderc, strolled arm in arm after dinner in Paris’s 19th arrondissement, where Muslims and North African immigrants abound.
“Hey, look. They’re gays,” Couderc recalled hearing before attackers pounced. They kicked de Bruijn in the face, delivered five cranial fractures, cut him deeply, knocked out a tooth, and left both men unconscious.
Three men of North African heritage paid for this carnage in June 2014. K. Taieb and M. Abdel Malik, both 19, earned two-and-a-half-year prison terms. T. Kide, 21, received six months’ probation for watching this brutality and doing nothing. An unnamed fourth thug was handled in juvenile court.
• Last August 26, officials expelled Redouane Dahbi and Ayyub Sadki, a pair of Moroccans, “given the serious threat posed to public order by maintaining these two radicalized individuals on French soil,” the Interior Ministry stated. France’s Le Figaro newspaper reported that these ISIS supporters targeted the town of Metz, where “Dahbi had planned to strike a restaurant downtown and a nightclub frequented by homosexuals, The Place, modeled on the attack against a gay club in Orlando.” This referred to Pulse, where ISIS sympathizer Omar Mateen fatally shot 49 patrons last June.
Many ‘homonationalists’ applaud Le Pen’s straight talk about Islamic fundamentalism.
After the Orlando atrocity, Marine Le Pen observed “how much homosexuality is attacked in countries that live under the Islamist jackboot.”
• When the ISIS-tied Karim Cheurfi fired his Kalashnikov on Paris’s Champs-Élyseés on April 20, he wounded two police officers and killed Xavier Jugelé, 37, an openly gay cop. Cheurfi shot indiscriminately and most likely knew nothing about this policeman’s sexuality. Regardless, Officer Jugelé is yet another gay victim of France’s Islamic-extremist mayhem. Whether homophobically focused or randomly inflicted, its impact can be equally deadly.
Le Pen remains the underdog on Sunday’s ballot. If she manages a Trump-like upset, it may be thanks to voters like Kelvin Hopper, 25, a gay artist and Le Pen supporter in Paris. Hopper told the AP: “Faced with the current threats, particularly from radical Islam, gays have realized they’ll be the first victims of these barbarians, and only Marine is proposing radical solutions.”