News (World)

France gets its first gay prime minister with Gabriel Attal

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal
Prime Minister Gabriel Attal Photo: Shutterstock

Education Minister Gabriel Attal has just been appointed prime minister of France, the first out gay man and LGBTQ+ person to be named to the position. At age 34, he will also be the country’s youngest prime minister in its Fifth Republic.

“I know I can count on your energy and your commitment to get my plan for [civic and economic] rearmament and revitalization that I announced,” President Emmanuel Macron posted on X after appointing Attal to the position.

The prime minister is the second-highest office in the country after the president. The prime minister is the head of government and can propose ministers as well as bills before the National Assembly.

Originally a member of the center-left Socialist Party, Attal was elected to the French National Assembly in 2017, the same year that the centrist Macron was elected president for the first time. The next year, he switched to Macron’s centrist “La République En Marche!” party and was named Minister of National Education and Youth. In that position, he instituted a ban on abayas, or long robes often worn by Muslim women, in schools, saying that the garments challenged the notion of secularism in France.

While in office, he was outed on Twitter by a former classmate. A year later, in an interview about homophobia in the government, he said that attitudes were changing and that he could “have fun” with his colleagues.

“I have thick skin when it comes to homophobic attacks,” he said at the time. “When I hear [anti-LGBTQ+] remarks [online], I think about the millions of French people who live with this but who aren’t famous and have less support and privilege than I do.”

“We are happy that being homosexual or gay today isn’t an obstacle to serving in the highest levels of power,” the organization SOS Homophobie said on X. “Society is progressing and this visibility shows that we are moving in the right direction. What is really important, however, will be the acts and policies he puts into place. We expect a Government that takes the lead on the issue of violence and attacks against LGBTI people and acts concretely for equal rights.”

Attal’s appointment comes a day after former Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne resigned following outcry against a law restricting immigration. She also faced controversy early in 2023 as the face of the government’s project to raise the retirement age in France, which led to widespread strikes.

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