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With 66.1% of the votes — over 33.9% for his opponent, Marine Le Pen — Sunday saw Emmanuel Macron become President of the French Republic, the fifth wealthiest nation in the world, and where — for four years now — gay and lesbian couples can marry and adopt children. The law that opened up marriage and adoption to same-sex couples was one of the only achievements of Macron’s predecessor, François Hollande. But promises have not been met, particularly the opening of Medically Assisted Procreation (MAP) to lesbian couples and single women. And the government has not been able to respond to the surge of homophobia that came with the debates on marriage equality.
During this long and unpredictable presidential campaign, right-wing candidate François Fillon received strong support from homophobic movements like Common Sense and the Manif for All, and called to end same-sex adoption. Le Pen, the candidate of the country’s extreme right, promised to remove gay marriage and adoption, plain and simple.
On the left, Benoit Hamon of the Socialist Party and Jean-Luc Mélenchon (who ran outside the structure of a political party), had the most comprehensive programs on these LGBT issues.
On these matters, Macron seemed to ride in the middle for several weeks. Last February, he began his campaign facing rumors of his own homosexuality. And the rumor was not new. Last November, he had already denied leading a “double life.” In February, Macron chose humor in denying the rumor that he had an affair with Mathieu Gallet, president of the country’s powerful public radio network: “I hear that I have a hidden life or something else. It’s disagreeable to Brigitte [Macron, his wife], and as I share my days and nights with her, she wonders how I do.”
But a few days later, it was Macron’s remarks about the homophobic movement “Manif pour tous” that provoked an outcry. In an interview with newsmagazine L’Obs, he explained that one of the errors of the previous administration was to ignore one side of the country; he cited as an example la “Manif pour tous”: “This is what happened with marriage for all, where we humiliated this France. One must never humiliate, one must speak, one must ‘share’ disagreements.”
Macron triggered incomprehension among LGBT organizations and a part of the left, which he claimed to be part of. In the polls, he seemed to lose ground despite being the favorite among gay French voters according to Hornet’s poll of its users at the end of February.
Following the official publication of the candidates’ programs, we wrote that Macron blows both hot and cold. He is against surrogacy mothers but pro MAP. The candidate of the En Marche! party claims to be neither conservative nor liberal, but aims to rake both far and wide.
Macron most likely realized that he was losing ground with LGBT and progressive voters when he gave an interview to the local gay magazine Têtu, sent an open letter to local LGBT organizations and multiplied his attacks against homophobic movements like Sens commun.
During his last major meeting in Paris, Macron spoke at length about same-sex families: “That is why I will defend what was done during this five-year term; I will protect all families on behalf of families because two men who love each other and have children is also a family, and because two women who love and have children are also a family, and because to recognize them does not take away from you. It is their right finally recognized. ”
The government of Macron will be formed in the beginning of next week. While queer issues have never been a priority, LGBT organizations have announced that they will be vigilant. Macron has announced that education will spearhead the fight against hatred toward LGBTs, taking up more or less the program already engaged by Hollande at the very end of his five-year term. Macron also insists that civil servants should be better trained, and justice should be uncompromising in the fight against discrimination.
MAP should also be among the first political issues to test the gay-friendliness of France’s new president. Rumor has it that the National Ethics Council will soon give its recommendation on the opening of MAP to same-sex female couples and single women. If that information is true — a step in favor of progress — will Emmanuel Macron seize the opportunity to change the law? We shall wait and see.