Far-right French politician Marine Le Pen, who has pledged to abolish same-sex marriage, looks to have won a place in the next round of the French Presidential election.
Some had said a four-way battle of the most popular candidates for the French presidency was too close to call, but now Le Pen will face off against Emmanuel Macron in a run-off.
Projected results say Mr Macron won 23.7 percent of the vote, compared to Le Pen’s 21.7 percent.
The pair saw off Francois Fillon and Jean-Luc Melenchon, say projections on French TV.
A run-off will take place on 7 May.
France went the polls on Sunday to elect a new President to replace outgoing Socialist François Hollande.
Of the eleven candidates, four were 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 could be confidently predicted.
Of the four, only Mr Macron and Mr Mélenchon had voiced strong support for equal rights.
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.
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.”