In October 2007, shortly after then-French president Nicolas Sarkozy moved into the Élysée Palace, his second wife, Cécilia Attias, left him for her lover, Richard Attias. (Sarkozy and Cécilia first met when he was officiating her wedding to television star Jacques Martin in his role as mayor of Neuilly-sur-Seine, a suburb of Paris. Sarkozy was, at the time, also married to someone else.)* In February 2008, only a few months after Cécilia had departed, Sarkozy married supermodel-singer Carla Bruni. One might think that given this particularly expansive marital history, Sarkozy would decline to comment on supposed threats to the institution. But non.
In a televised interview over the weekend, Sarkozy—who recently announced his intention to return formally to politics and lead his right-wing UMP party—criticized the policies of French President François Hollande, including the current president’s leadership on LGBTQ issues. The thrice-married politician believes that Hollande’s government, in introducing legislation allowing for same-sex marriage, is “humiliating families and humiliating people who love the family.”
France legalized gay marriage in May 2013 after mass demonstrations for and against the measure, violent clashes between far-right protestors and the police, and 172 hours of parliamentary debate. Over a year later, it seems that there are still, somehow, families in France free of humiliation (though protests of same-sex marriage have continued in 2014).
Bruni, Sarkozy’s current wife, has gone on record as disagreeing with his stance on same-sex marriage because she has gay and lesbian friends, and says that her husband only opposes it because “he sees people as groups of thousands rather than people we know personally.” She has also said that she does not miss the Élysée Palace, and that being out of it has meant that she and Sarkozy have more time for their family. Her husband’s renewed political ambitions will likely tax that time; Sarkozy seems fiercely dedicated to his return, saying: “I don’t have a choice.” Given the sense in France that Sarkozy would do best to stay away from politics, one wonders if a little self-inflicted familial humiliation isn’t in the offing.
*Correction, Sept 22, 2014: This article originally stated Nicolas Sarkozy was mayor of Paris. He was mayor of Neuilly-sur-Seine, a suburb of Paris.