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French Minister under pressure to resign after anti-LGBTQ comments

“I maintain my comments,” Caroline Cayeux said, before later backtracking.

By Emily Maskell

Words: Emily Maskell; pictures: Public Senat

Pressure is growing on French government minister Caroline Cayeux to resign after she referred to the LGBTQ+ community as “those people”.

The Local Authorities minister’s comments have understandably offended and angered LGBTQ+ people and allies in France who have called for her resignation and filed a legal complaint against the 73-year-old for public insult.

In 2013, Cayeux opposed France’s plans to legalise gay marriage and adoption, saying the laws suggested went “against nature.”

Speaking to broadcaster Public Senat on Tuesday (12 July), Cayeux doubled down on her previous position when asked if she still stood by these comments from nearly a decade ago, the minister said: “Obviously I maintain my comments. But I always said that if the law was voted for, I would respect it,” The Independent reports.

She added that she was being wrongly painted as prejudiced and that she has “a lot of friends among all those people, and I’m being targeted by an unfair trial. This upsets me.”

Cayeux later apologised, tweeting out that her words were “inappropriate” and that “equal rights must always be a priority in our action.”

She also told the newspaper Le Parisien that the comments “do not at all reflect my views.”

However, LGBTQ+ rights groups questioned the sincerity of the politician’s apology, and more than a hundred public figures – including members of parliament, mayors, athletes, doctors, lawyers, and journalists – published an open letter in the newspaper Journal du Dimanche on Sunday (17 July) condemning Cayeux.

The letter asks: “How can we believe that the government will respect equality among everyone, will commit to fighting discrimination and guarantee gender freedom?”

“The question is not whether this new minister has, in her entourage, friends that are among ‘those people’ to mask her prejudices,” their statement continues.

“She deliberately chose to maintain homophobic remarks: it is completely reprehensible. Her words hurt many of us personally, but above all they undermine our daily efforts to uphold national values.”

They called on the French government to set a better example to uphold values of equality and questioned her position but Government Prime Minister Elizabeth Borne said Cayeux would continue in her post.

On Cayeux’s comments, Borne said that while they had been “shocking,” Cayeux had apologised and would remain “concentrated on her mission” in government and “vigilant” going forward to support the fight against LGBTQ+ discrimination, DW News reports. 

Transport Minister Clément Beaune, who is openly gay, called Cayeux’s comments “extremely hurtful,” while Government spokesman Olivier Veran said her perspective is out of touch with the times.

Cayeux’s statement has exposed a further divided government at a time when French President Emmanuel Macron has lost his majority in parliament.

The Attitude July/August issue is out now.