Marine Le Pen, the far-right French presidential candidate, might seem an unlikely gay icon but if I were French, she might have my vote, says Rob Buchanan.
Against the backdrop of a violently battered and economically depressed France, many LGBT people are living in fear. Much of that concern is focused on the spectre of Islamic terror, despite statistics showing more homophobic attacks come from non-Muslim French – for example, SOS Homophobie figures show 78 percent increase in the months following the introduction of marriage equality in 2013. However, with ISIS-claimed attrocities like the Champs Élysées attack yesterday, the Bastille Day massacre in 2016 and the Bataclan attack in 2015, it’s easy to see how gays become potential voters for a party that has declared political war on Islamic terrorists.
It seems ISIS hate queers even more than your average infidel, so it’s not a huge stretch of the imagination, in the wake of the slaughter in Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, that gays in France might be a target. Ever savvy of a political niche, Le Pen`s party, the Front National (FN) are courting concerned LGBTs by labeling Islam and immigration as a “common enemy”.
The Pulse nightclub massacre has been mentioned several times by Le Pen in her campaigning too. She recently talked about, “how much homosexuality is attacked in countries that live under the Islamist jackboot.”
FN, once a notoriously homophobic party, has gone through something of a rebranding and purging in the last decade. In fact, the FN has more high-ranking queer politicians in its party than all the others in the French election. Even Le Pen’s chief adviser, FN vice-president Florian Philippot, is gay.
Where’s The Catch?
So, where’s the catch? Well, Le Pen has some pretty disturbing stances on LGBT rights. For example, she has promised to abolish same-sex marriage if she gets into François Hollande’s high heels, and replace it with civil partnership. It seems ‘liberté, égalité, fraternité’ has a slightly different meaning for Madame Le Pen, yet she seems to be highly popular with gay voters. Results from French polling firm IFOP declared a “constant progression of the National Front among the gay electorate,” with 16.5 percent of the LGBT voting base supporting FN. This means that the NF is actually more popular proportionally with gay voters than with straight voters.
Last year leading French newspaper Le Monde ran the headline: “The National Front captures the attention of a part of the gay electorate,” citing results from the academic research institute Cevipof, which showed even higher levels of LGBT support at 40 percent. In a hardly scientific, but nonetheless interesting poll of 3,200 gay French men on hook-up app Hornet, 20 percent said they would vote Le Pen.
The opportunity of exploiting the justifiable fear of the LGBT community, generated by ISIS attacks in Europe, has resonated with far-right parties across the continent. Dutch “Party for Freedom” leader Geert Wilders was quick to jump on the bandwagon, becoming extremely vocal about his party’s LGBT-friendly credentials, with pledges to defend gays against Islamic fundamentalists via draconian immigration and unapologetically Islamophobic laws.
Whether Le Pen makes it all the way to Élysée Palace or not, one thing is for sure. The political and social landscape of Europe is changing irreversibly. For the first time ever Europe has a large, visible and educated population of LGBT voters who are politically conscious. That gives us an impressive social lobby to correspond with our ‘pink pound’ economic clout. With hate crime statistics rising all the time and hardly a week passing without some ISIS-attributed atrocity or terror plot foiled, LGBT concerns are becoming a key element in the EUs political machinery.
But in a political climate that manipulates justified fear to gain support for the far right, LGBT people must decide where we draw the line. We must decide what we are willing to sacrifice for our security.