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Culture

Front National deputy leader sues magazine over ‘gay partner’ photos

media Front National vice-president Florian Philippot RFI

The deputy leader of France’s Front National is to take Closer magazine to court for printing photos it implies prove he is gay. Florian Philippot is to lodge a complaint against Closer for invasion of privacy, the party leader, Marine Le Pen, announced on Friday. The case comes amid dissent in the far-right party's ranks over recruiting openly gay members.

Philippot does not want to give “this rag” any publicity, Le Pen told a press conference, but he will take Closer to court.

Claiming that she and her children had also been victims of invasions of privacy, the far-right leader said she hoped that Philippot’s case would lead to a sentence severe enough to prevent the paper from continuing such practises.

In March Closer was fined 15,000 euros for printing photos that revealed President François Hollande was having an affair with actress Julie Gayet - revelations which Le Pen condemned at the time – but that did not prevent the magazine printing more photos of Gayet and Hollande at the Elysée presidential palace last month.

This week Closer published photos of Philippot with a man it claimed was his "friend" on holiday in Vienna earlier this month.

The man’s face is concealed but Closer says that he is a television journalist.

Last year two FN members in Hénin-Beaumont, a town in north-east France where the party has enjoyed a much-publicised rise in support, took a young blogger, Octave Nitkowski, to court for revealing details of their private lives in a book.

The court ordered sections referring to regional councillor Bruno Bilde to be deleted but not those referring to Steeve Briois, a rising star of the FN who is now the town’s mayor, because he was considered to have a high enough media profile for the information to be of public interest.

Le Pen is a trained lawyer and she and her party have a penchant for taking critics, including US-born singer Madonna, to court.

Earlier this week Sébastien Chenu, the cofounder of a group for right-wing gays, left the mainstream UMP and joined the Rassemblement Bleu Marine, an organisation set up to broaden the FN’s appeal, especially in elections.

Chenu, who worked for IMF chief Christine Lagarde when she was France’s economy minister and also worked as strategy director for RFI’s sister TV station France 24 in 2007, is to become head of the organisation’s culture committee and will be a candidate in cantonal elections next year, Le Pen announced on Friday.

Gaylib expressed “deep consternation” at Chenu’s move.

The Front National opposed last year’s gay marriage law but did not call on its members to join the massive demonstrations against it.

The party’s two MPs, Marion Maréchal Le Pen and Gilbert Collard, did join them, however, and some of its mayors declared that they would refuse to carry out same-sex marriages after the law was passed.

Marine Le Pen on Friday welcomed Chenu’s recruitment with the claim that it is evidence that “our capacity to attract and rally is almost infinite”.

Since taking over the party’s leadership from her father, Jean-Marie, she has tried to clean up and modernise its image, a move which appears to have attracted some “conservative gays” disillusioned with the pusillanimity of the mainstream parties, according to Didier Lestrade, the founder of ActUp Paris who has written a book on “Why gays join the right”.

“She uses the struggle for women or for gays to attack Muslims and try to recruit minority struggles into her fight against Islam, on the model of what has been done by Pim Fortuyn and Geerts Wilders in the Netherlands,” he told the Mediapart website.

Becoming gay-friendly is a big change for the FN, however.

Jean-Marie Le Pen once described homosexuality as a “biological and social anomaly” and was fond of making jokes about Aids.

A number of FN activists have issued an anonymous call attacking the “political and moral inconsistency” of appointing Chenu to a leading position and far-right website Infos Bordeaux reports discontent in the Gironde region, predicting ructions at the party’s next political bureau.

The far-right magazine Minute, recently fined 10,000 euros for comparing Justice Minister Christiane Taubira to a monkey, accuses the FN of “homofolly” in south-west France, reporting that some former local council candidates have married people of the same sex and that sitting FN councillors have been present at the ceremonies.
 

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