Pressure is mounting on a French government minister to resign over comments stigmatizing homosexuality and LGBTQ people, in the latest challenge to President Emmanuel Macron’s leadership.
Caroline Cayeux’s remarks hurt and angered many – including her colleagues – and sparked a wider discussion about the persistent discriminatory attitudes of those in power.
More than 100 personalities published an appeal on Sunday in the Journal du dimanche newspaper asking why she is still in government. The signatories included parliamentarians, senior civil servants, an Olympic medalist, doctors, artists, a former prime minister, a former top adviser to Macron and other members of Macron’s centrist political camp.
Cayeux was asked in an interview this week about her opposition to the 2013 French law allowing same-sex marriage and adoption, and comments at the time saying they were “unnatural”. Speaking to broadcaster Public Senat on Tuesday, she said she was being misrepresented as biased.
“I stand by my words. I always said that if the law was passed, I would apply it,” she said. “I have many friends among all these people, and I am the target of an unfair trial. It upsets me.
The remarks sent shockwaves among LGBTQ people and those fighting discrimination and abuse, and prompted calls for his resignation. A lawsuit has been filed against her for public insult.
Cayeux later tweeted his regrets, saying his remarks were “inappropriate”, and sent a letter to anti-discrimination groups apologizing. She told Le Parisien newspaper that the comments “do not reflect my point of view at all”.
Many question the sincerity of his change of heart and say the damage has been done.
“How can we trust that the government will respect equality among all, commit to fighting discrimination and guarantee the freedom of the sexes?” asks an online petition by LGBTQ groups calling for the resignation of Cayeux and two other members of government opposed to the same-sex marriage law. The petition calls them “spokesmen of hate and rejection.”
But his bosses seem to remain loyal to Cayeux. Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said Friday that Cayeux’s remarks were “awkward”, but welcomed her apology and said Cayeux would be “vigilant” in the future to support the fight against anti-LGBTQ discrimination.
The issue has divided the government at a time when Macron is politically weakened after losing his majority in parliament.
Transport Minister Clément Beaune, who is gay, called Cayeux’s remarks “extremely hurtful”. Government spokesman Olivier Veran called them out of touch with the times.
In the appeal published on Sunday, the signatories called on the government to set a better example and to defend France’s values of equality.
They celebrated “those people” Cayeux referred to, noting that LGBTQ soldiers were among those marching in the July 14 parade in Paris, and that LGBTQ people work in local and national government and security forces. French.
“We are proud of all these people who, through their dignified and discreet behavior, know how to serve the Republic better than her,” he concluded.