Caroline Cayeux, appointed minister for territorial cohesion as part of France’s new government formed on July 4, was asked by the Senate on Tuesday whether she maintained her opposition to the law for same-sex marriage and adoption in 2013.
At the time, she called the reform a “caprice” and “plan that goes against nature”.
Cayeux initially stood by what she said, adding: “I have a lot of friends among those people.” Two days later she apologised for her remarks.
The open letter, to be published in the Journal du Dimanche newspaper on Sunday, took issue with the choice of words and called into question whether she should keep her post.
“How can we accept that a member of government … calls French citizens ‘those people’? How can we avoid that, in her mind, they do not belong to the same category of citizens?”
The letter was signed by members of parliament, mayors, former members of government including former Prime Minister Manuel Valls, as well as journalists, lawyers and members of civil society.
On Friday, Prime Minister Elizabeth Borne said that Cayeux had made “shocking” remarks in the past and had explained herself awkwardly but that she would continue working and remain “concentrated on her mission” in government.