French minister comes out as gay to fight homophobia

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PARIS (Reuters) - France’s Digital Minister Mounir Mahjoubi has come out as gay, in a rare move for a French public figure that he said would help give gay people more visibility at a time when homophobic acts are on the rise.

In a message on Twitter late on Thursday, the international day against homophobia, the 34-year old junior minister in Emmanuel Macron’s government said homophobia “sometimes forces us to adapt and lie just to avoid hatred and to live our lives”.

“Homophobia is an ill that eats away at society, invades schools, and poisons families and lost friends,” Mahjoubi said in his post.

The son of Moroccan immigrants who became a successful tech entrepreneur before joining Macron’s campaign, Mahjoubi is not the first French politician to come out, but he said his personal experience could inspire those facing prejudice.

“We have to remember the consequences of homophobia in daily life, notably for the young. It has also had consequences for me,” he told Franceinfo radio in an interview.

According to French gay rights charity SOS Homophobie, the number of physical attacks due to homophobia jumped by 15 percent from 2016 to 2017.

France legalised same-sex marriage in 2013, after a bitter and divisive debate in which some former conservative members of Macron’s current left-and-right government opposed the legislation.

Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Catherine Evans