French Minister of Health, Labor and Solidarity Catherine Vautrin arrives at the Elysee palace for the first new cabinet meeting, in Paris, France, 12 January 2024. EPA-EFE/TERESA SUAREZ


New French Minister targeted over past opposition to gay marriage


France’s new Government under openly gay Prime Minister Gabriel Attal has some other notable figures in its ranks causing feathers to be ruffled.

The promotion of Catherine Vautrin to Minister of labour, health and solidarity has attracted attention because she was an outspoken opponent of gay marriage.

Joël Deumier, co-president of LGBT support organisation SOS Homophobie, said he and his members were “extremely worried” about her appointment. He accuses Vautrin of having “fuelled homophobia”.

On X, SOS Homophobie wrote: “The appointment of many hostile or very ambiguous ministers towards LGBTI rights, whose positions have fuelled anti-LGBTI hatred, is very worrying, as LGBTI-phobia takes root and persists in French society.

“We are also very concerned about the application of the Government’s plan for #LGBTI equality by the ministers whose appointments have been announced.”

On the same platform, the Green Party member and Deputy Mayor of Paris, David Belliard, said that France had “hit rock bottom” with her appointment.

“Catherine Vautrin campaigned against marriage for all … ” he wrote.

Maxime Haes, spokesperson for gay-rights group Stop Homophobia, said the appointment gave a “bad signal” and “raises questions”.

A decade ago, Vautrin took part in demonstrations by anti-gay marriage and gay-couple adoption organisation La Manif Pour Tous. She also voted against “marriage equality” in 2013.

In 2023, Vautrin expressed her regret over the vote against said law. She stated: “Anticipating societal expectations is crucial in politics. Ten years ago, by not voting for marriage for all, I missed this crucial juncture that has now become obvious.

Deumier is not convinced. “The entry of figures openly hostile to LGBT rights has the effect of a ‘cold shower’,” he stated.

Vautrin has a Conservative background and supported the then-French president Nicolas Sarkozy in the past. Over the past couple of years she has backed current President Emmanuel Macron, publicly endorsing him in 2022.

“During the crises, those of the yellow vests and Covid, he showed his ability to bounce back, to lead the country. All these elements make me think that he is the man for the job,” she said about Macron at the time.

LGBTI campaigners are also concerned about the new culture minister Rachida Dati.

Dati warned in 2019 of a risk of “fracturing” society with the opening up of assisted reproductive technologies (ART) to all women. She also refused to vote either way in a 2018 poll in the European Parliament on banning “conversion therapy”, practices that claim to “cure” LGBT people.

It is unlikely the new French Government will turn its back on the gay agenda. Attal used to be in a civil partnership with Stéphane Séjourné, who left the European Parliament to become the new French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs. They are said to have kept up a “good” relationship.

Many see the new appointments as indicating a rightward shift by Macron, spurred by the successes of Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella of the National Rally party (RN).

On the political Left, members are not amused.

“Vautrin, Dati, it’s the Sarkozy IV government,” stated the National Secretary of the Europe Ecology-The Greens (EELV) party Marine Tondelier.

Olivier Faure, the First Secretary of the Socialist Party, said on X about Attal’s speech: “The ‘regeneration’ is therefore that of the Sarkozy dinosaurs.”

Fabien Roussel, the National Secretary of the French Communist Party, made a similar remark: “Welcome to the Sarkozy government!”

On the Right, Eric Zemmour poked fun at Les Republicains, of which Dati was a member until she was ejected once she became a minister in the new Government under Attal.

On X , in an apparent quip, he wrote: “My wife left for another. Is it final? – Yes. What are you going to do? – I think I’m going to leave her.”