Why gay French men are voting far right

By Will Chalk
Newsbeat reporter

Related Topics
image captionBaptiste and his boyfriend Anthony are both voting Front National

The main gay district in Paris is full of bars, clubs and sex shops - not a place you'd expect to find support for banning same-sex marriage.

But there are people in Le Marais backing the Front National (FN) ahead of this weekend's presidential election in France - and that's exactly what the party's leader says she'll do.

Polls suggest Marine Le Pen has plenty of support from gay voters.

Newsbeat's been out in the district finding out why.

"Homosexuality itself isn't the only thing I vote for," Cedric tells us over a beer on one of the many terraces in Le Marais.

He's an environmental engineering student and, after some persuasion, agrees to go on record as a Front National supporter.

For a long time the FN was a taboo in France - a fringe party clouded by allegations of homophobia, racism and anti-semitism.

It was founded by Jean-Marie Le Pen in 1972.

image copyrightAFP/Getty Images
image captionJean-Marie Le Pen was expelled from the National Front in 2015

He wanted to deport three million foreigners, denied the Holocaust and also opposed France's membership of the EU.

He's also been quoted describing homosexuals as a biological anomaly.

Now the Front National has entered the mainstream - and since Marine Le Pen became its leader in 2011, with her promise to temporarily suspend all immigration and put French interests first, it's a serious contender in this election.

Another of her pledges is to repeal a law allowing gay people to get married.

image captionPosters of Marine Le Pen are frequently vandalised

"There are priorities in France other than homosexuality. I myself am in a same-sex couple and there have been many advances in this area," Cedric explains.

"But for me there are more pressing issues like the economy, the national debt and unemployment."

We ask him if he's worried about LGBT rights and, like most of the FN supporters we speak to, he thinks the same-sex marriage thing is a bluff: a ploy to win conservative votes.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionMarine Le Pen is the youngest daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen - she has two older sisters

It's a view that's at least partially backed up by the facts. Counter-intuitively, the Front National has more high level gay figures than any other major party, people like Marine Le Pen's closest adviser Florian Philippot.

Cedric, for one, is prepared to take the risk.

"In my view, she won't do it. If the FN were to win, I think she would prioritise other things."

As Cedric talks to us, drinkers on nearby tables are visibly shocked.

The majority of the people we chat to in Le Marais laugh, or physically recoil, when we ask if they're backing the Front National.

"You won't find FN supporters here," we're frequently told. But we do.

"I don't think she's a threat to gay rights at all," Baptiste tells us. He and his boyfriend Anthony are both voting for Marine Le Pen.

"It is true that maybe her father was more reluctant, but a lot of people in the political party now are homosexual and she never says she finds it unnatural."

Polls suggest the party is now more popular in the LGBT community than perhaps many would want to admit.

Of the 3,200 gay French men the dating app Hornet spoke to, one in five said they would be giving Marine Le Pen their vote.

Other polling in the aftermath of the 2015 regional elections suggested the FN was more popular among married gay men than the general population.

So what is it about Marine Le Pen that appeals directly to some LGBT voters? For many, it's her tough stance on immigration.

"Where are the gays most in danger? In Islamic countries," says Pascale, who doesn't want to be photographed.

"Gay people are being crucified - it's a danger and I don't want it coming to France, definitely not."

But further north, in the poorer and more multicultural suburb of Pont-de-Flandre, it's a different picture.

"The FN supporters you spoke to, were they white?" house DJ Kiddy Smiles asks us, "Yes? I'm not surprised."

The Spice Girls and Madonna both feature prominently in the set he's playing at a local gay bar.

"I don't want to say this, but I feel like a lot of LGBT people are very selfish. They feel like they're not targets for the FN any more so they think it's OK to vote for them.

"Marine Le Pen has been very smart by preaching that homosexuals are a target for Muslims.

"I don't think she dislikes gay people, I think she's just telling the people on the right what they want to hear.

"Is she actually going to repeal same sex marriage? I don't care. Just the fact she thinks it's OK to say it makes her very dangerous."

Eleven candidates are in the race for the French presidency.

There are four front-runners and there'll be a run-off between the two leading candidates on 7 May if no-one gets an outright majority.

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