Far-right French politician Marine Le Pen, who has pledged to abolish same-sex marriage, to is tipped to do well in the first round of the country’s Presidential election this week.
France is set to go to the polls on Sunday to elect a new President to replace outgoing Socialist François Hollande.
From the crowded field of candidates, none are expected to achieve a majority, meaning the top two will go forward to a May 7 run-off.
Of the eleven candidates, four are currently all near-tied with around 20 percent of the vote – centrist Emmanuel Macron, scandal-plagued conservative François Fillon, far-left Eurosceptic Jean-Luc Mélenchon, and the far-right Le Pen.
(L-R: Fillon, Macron, Mélenchon, Le Pen)
The candidates are all polling within the margin of error of victory with unpredictable turnout, meaning no outcome can be confidently predicted.
Of the four, only Mr Macron and Mr Mélenchon have voiced strong support for equal rights.
However, the split field could mean that LGBT voters end up with an unsavourty choice in the run-off between Le Pen, who has pledged to end same-sex marriage in France, and Fillon, who has vowed to outlaw adoption by gay couples.
Le Pen is tipped to squeak through the first-round vote, but could end up facing any one of the three other politicians in the run-off.
Polling shows that Le Pen has the strongest chance of getting elected if she faces Fillon, who is facing a corruption probe, or Mélenchon, whose Eurosceptic views are still far from mainstream in France.
In a recent manifesto Le Pen promised to create an “improved” form of civil unions in the country to “replace” the equal marriage law passed under the current Socialist government in 2013.
The policy plan specifies that the changes would “not be retroactive”, sparing Le Pen the legal headache of trying to unpick or downgrade thousands of existing same-sex marriages, but the replacement plan would close same-sex marriage to new couples – meaning gays would once again only be able to enter civil partnerships.
It would be a return to the former status quo for France, which only permitted same-sex couples to enter a contractual form of civil union (PACS) from 1999 until 2013.
Fillon’s proposls will be no more appealing to LGBT rights activists.
The candidate, who voted against an equal age of consent in 1982, says he wants to change the law to ensure “a child is always the fruit of a father and mother.”
Under Fillon’s proposals, same-sex couples would be banned from adopting children, under a new requirement that children must have both male and female parents.
In his platform, Fillon wrote: “A repeal of [same-sex marriage] is not possible… but without questioning the principle of marriage for same-sex couples, the rules concerning parentage must be reviewed, because it is in the child’s interest, which for me comes above all other factors.
“I know that gay couples welcome children with love, but it does not seem right that the law allows children to be a son or daughter of two parents of the same sex.”
Mr Fillon claims that the “biological” meaning of parenthood should be restored “in respect of a father and a mother”.
Under the change, which he insists would not be “retroactive”, full adoption would only be available to couples comprised of “two different sex parents”.
Mr Mélenchon is a supporter of LGBT rights, while Mr Macron’s manifesto vows to defend LGBT equality and “name and shame” employers who discriminate against gay people.
Russian government-controlled outlets previously published homophobic smears aimed at Macron, who is often touted as a ‘unity’ centrist candidate, reporting a “persistent rumour that [Macron] is secretly gay and living a ‘double life’”, and also accusing him of being in the pocket of a “very wealthy gay lobby”.
The politician, who has been married to his former school teacher Brigitte Trogneux since 2007, attacked the smears in his Têtu interview.
He said: “Two things are vile behind the implication: to say that it is not possible for a man living with an older woman to be anything other than a homosexual or a hidden gigolo is misogynistic. And it’s also homophobia. If I had been a homosexual, I would say it and I would live it.”
France goes to the polls on Sunday, April 23.