January 14, 2006
Italians clash on gay ‘marriage’
Thousands of gay rights activists have demonstrated in Rome in support of same-sex unions. A senior judge celebrated "weddings" for 10 same-sex couples, in a ceremony of symbolic rather than legal value. The move has been denounced by Pope Benedict XVI, who says gay marriage would "obscure the value and function of the legitimate family". Meanwhile in Milan, in another challenge to the Roman Catholic Church, women marched in defence of abortion. Police said it had attracted 50,000 people. Same-sex civil unions – illegal in Italy – have become an important issue ahead of forthcoming general elections, while conservatives and Catholics are behind efforts to tighten the country’s liberal abortion law.
The influence of Catholicism was a source of resentment for many of the demonstrators. In Rome, a banner read: "Let’s free love from religious phobia." But members of the right-wing government expressed disregard for the protesters and their cause. "These demonstrators are really nauseating," said Reforms Minister Roberto Calderoli. The Pope has dismissed gay marriage, saying on Thursday it was "a serious mistake to obfuscate the value and functions of the legitimate family based on marriage by attributing legal recognition to other forms of legal union for which there is no real social demand". Gay rights activists retorted: "What a pity the Pope has not taken advantage of the occasion to affirm that Christianity means love and acceptance of all people."
Gay marriage and the legalisation of cohabitation arrangements between unwed couples of the same or the opposite sex has become a political hot potato in Italy, says the BBC’s David Willey in Rome. Italy’s left-wing opposition has said it will change the law if it wins the April general election to allow common-law partners of opposite sexes to obtain legal recognition of their unions, but it stopped short of proposing to allow gays and lesbians to wed. The leader of the left, Romano Prodi, who could become Italy’s next prime minister if Silvio Berlusconi is defeated in the general election, is caught in an awkward dilemma, our correspondent says.
He and his wife are practising Catholics and are under pressure from the Church to uphold traditional Catholic family teaching and values. The latest statistics, however, show that common-law unions have doubled in Italy during the last 10years, but they still represent only a small minority of couples – 6% in the north and only 2% in the south of the country. Gay marriage is already legal in several European countries, including traditionally Catholic Spain. Last month Britain introduced a law allowing same-sex couples to formalise their relationships.
February 24, 2005
Gay rights enter Italian election
Vladimir Luxuria sees herself as neither male nor female. A transgender opposition candidate in Italy’s general election this April is campaigning for improved gay rights. Vladimir Luxuria, standing for the Communist Refoundation party, intends to challenge conservatives in her own country and Europe. Ms Luxuria, who considers herself neither male nor female, told the BBC that having a transgender MP would be an important symbol. She wants to promote civic unions and press for asylum rights for gay people.
Italy was one of the very few nations in the European Union that did not recognise civil unions, she told the World Today programme.
She called for political asylum for "all the gays who try to get into Italy from countries where homosexuality is punishable by death".
Serious message The hardline Communist Refoundation is the third biggest party in the opposition alliance led by Romano Prodi, which has seen disagreements between its factions over the rights of same-sex and unmarried couples. " We don’t want privileges – we want our rights," said Ms Luxuria.
Asked about attitudes towards gay people in Italy, she argued that the views of ordinary people were changing but politicians and the Roman Catholic clergy were "far behind". Speaking earlier to Reuters news agency, she suggested she would ditch her trademark drag costumes – sequins, feather boas and bouffant wigs – once elected.
" Parliament is not a theatre, it’s not a discotheque," she said. " It wouldn’t be useful to provoke [people] in such a stupid way."
7 July 2006
David Volleyball Tournament
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15 January 2007
Vatican bans church service for gays, Italian gays protest
The protesters carried banners calling on the Italian government to legalise gay unions.
A group of around 150 protesters attended a rally in St Peters Square on Saturday to protest against the anti-gay stance of Pope Benedict XVI. The protest, organised by gay rights group Arcigay, was held on the ninth anniversary of the suicide of writer Alfredo Ormando. He doused himself in petrol and set himself alight in St Peters Square in 1998 in protest at the Roman Catholic Church’s attitude towards gay people.
Some of the gay activists laid floral tributes to Ormando. The protesters carried banners calling on the Italian government to legalise gay unions. The centre-left coalition of prime minister Romano Prodi is considering bringing forward a bill to grant some partnership rights to Italian gay and lesbian couples. Prodi has said, however, that he opposes gay marriage. In December 2006 the country’s Senate called on the government to bring forward legislation.
There has been a hardening of the Church’s attitude towards LGB people since Benedict became Pope in April 2005. Last week he lectured a gathering of Italian local government officials about the "threat" from granting gay or lesbian couples some form of legal recognition. "Projects aimed at granting improper legal recognition to forms of unions [other than marriage] appear dangerous and counterproductive as they inevitably weaken and destabilise the legitimate family based on matrimony," the Pontiff said.
January 29, 2007
Italy Coalition Faces Challenge Over Gay Rights
Rome – Italy’s fragile governing coalition looked set on Monday for a showdown over its plan to recognize the rights of homosexual and unmarried heterosexual couples. Justice Minister Clemente Mastella said he would rather see the government fall than back a law he calls immoral, reflecting opposition to the move among the coalition’s own ranks as well as the powerful Catholic Church.
“I don’t care if the government falls but I am not going to vote for that law,” Mastella said at the weekend. “Homosexuals can acquire more rights but I’ll never accept the idea that they can be considered a family.” It is the most divisive issue so far for the Catholics-to- communists coalition, particularly because it raises moral questions in a country where the Roman Catholic Church still wields great influence. The draft law prepared by two government ministers would allow unwed couples, regardless of their sexual orientation, to get certificates from town halls confirming they are a couple.
This would allow such couples to share health insurance and some pension rights, transfer rental contracts to each other and join waiting lists for public housing and state jobs. The law, known as PACS (Civil Solidarity Pacts), is similar to legislation passed in France. It will have to go first to the cabinet and then to parliament for a full debate.
But the fireworks began over the weekend when Mastella got into a highly publicized verbal duel with Piero Fassino, head of the largest party in the coalition, Democrats of the Left (DS). Mastella’s small UDEUR party is one of the nine in Prime Minister Romano Prodi’s coalition, which has wobbled on a range of issues, including pensions and Italian forces in Afghanistan.
Mastella, using a phrase associated more with the opposition centre-right, said all members of the governing coalition could not be “hostages” of the extreme left. Fassino retorted: “You don’t have to be a leftist to recognize a law that makes good sense.”
Monsignor Giuseppe Betori, secretary general of the Italian bishops’ conference, warned the government against trying to pass any law that would “unhinge” the traditional family. Most members of the centre-right opposition, headed by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, are opposed to legal recognition for unwed couples and say the law will only be a Trojan Horse for eventual moves to legalize gay marriage. Last month the northern city of Padua became the first in Italy to allow unmarried heterosexuals and homosexuals to register formally as “families based on ties of affection.” The move provoked the wrath of the Vatican and the political right, both of which have challenged its constitutionality.
February 8, 2007
Italy’s gays lay their hopes in same-sex unions bill
by Nicholas Rigillo dpa German Press Agency
Rome- Liliana, now 39, fell in love with Carmela, 46, when she was still a teenager. They met in the local parish of their small village in southern Italy and have been together ever since. They now share a small and tidy penthouse not far from Rome’s Gemelli, the pope’s hospital, which Carmela bought 11 years ago. "This year I’ve finally finished paying back the mortgage," Carmela says with a sigh of relief.
Carmela works as an apartment house manager. Her partner is a psychologist. As far as long-term relationships go, they do not get much better than this. "We’ve been together for nearly 24 years, but our love is still going strong. The problem is that as far as the Italian state is concerned, it means nothing at all," Liliana adds. Carmela and Liliana face tremendous difficulties in Catholic Italy, one of the few countries in the European Union that still does not recognize same-sex unions.
Like thousands of other gay couples, they enjoy virtually no rights. The fact that they are not allowed to formalize their relationship means they cannot assist each other properly in times of need and cannot plan their financial future together. "If Carmela falls ill, for example, I am not allowed to take time off work to look after her," Liliana says. Carmela’s biggest concern is that Liliana would not be able to inherit her flat. "I have two brothers and my father is still alive. If something were to happen to me, my family would become the legitimate owners of this flat and Liliana would be thrown out," Carmela says.
All this could soon change, however.
Italy’s centre-left government is about to bring a bill before parliament that would grant new rights to de-facto couples – including same-sex unions. The bill aims to introduce so-called "civil pacts of solidarity" (PACS), along the lines of similar legislation adopted by France in 1999. According to the bill’s draft, couples would be allowed to register their partnership at their local registrar’s office and thus have access to a series of rights, including inheritance and a share of the departed partner’s pension earnings.
Gays and lesbians would also be allowed to visit their partners in hospital without first having to seek the consent of the victim’s relatives. Plans by Romano Prodi’s government to introduce PACS in Italy are being met with enormous resistance, particularly from the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Benedict XVI has repeatedly condemned them as "pseudo- matrimony" and has been urging legislators to defend traditional families.
Earlier this week, Avvenire, the official daily of the Italian Bishops Conference, warned in an editorial that the bill under discussion represented a "watershed that will have inevitable repercussions on the future of Italian politics." The government’s plan has caused deep embarrassment among Catholic politicians supporting Prodi’s centre-left coalition, who fear PACS might pose a threat to the traditional family. "Italy is the land of the family. It is part of our heritage. We want to strengthen this institution, not weaken it," Paola Binetti, a Catholic lawmaker and leading representative of the small but highly influential "teodem" wing of Prodi’s coalition told Deutsche Presse- Agentur dpa.
Franco Grillini, a Democratic Left MP and campaigner for gay and lesbian rights, says the Vatican is exerting undue influence on Italian politics and points to a recent poll by daily Corriere della Sera, which shows nearly half of Italians, including many practising Catholics, supporting the regulation of same-sex unions. "The problem is that the Church still wields a disproportionately strong influence on Italian politics. This is because politicians on both the left and right believe they cannot win an election without the backing of the Vatican," Grillini told dpa.
The first legislation seeking to grant some rights to gay and lesbian couples in Italy dates back to 1986. But this is the first time that a government has agreed to push it through parliament. "It’s like the old battle for divorce and abortion all over again. In fact, homosexuality has finally become an open topic of debate. And the government can no longer afford to ignore the issue," Grillini said. Liliana, who considers herself a Catholic, says the Vatican should not be allowed to interfere with political decisions concerning the individual rights of people.
"What makes me mad is that religious leaders talk a lot about family values, but what they actually want is power," she says. Carmela and Liliana say they would be among the first to take advantage of the new law. But they are not taking its approval for granted.
February 9 ,2007
Italy approves ‘gay couples’ bill
Italy’s government approved a bill on Thursday granting rights to same-sex couples but stopping far short of allowing "gay marriage", considered a step too far by many Catholics in Romano Prodi’s centre-left coalition. The legislation recognises relations between gays, unmarried heterosexual couples and others who choose to live together, granting rights in areas like inheritance and health care. "It’s a step forward for the civility of our country," said equal opportunities minister Barbara Pollastrini after the "rights of cohabiting people" or "DICO" bill was approved by a special cabinet meeting. The bill is a delicate balance on an issue which threatened to split Prodi’s coalition between devout Roman Catholic centrists and pro-gay rights activists. The opposition said it was the start of a process towards gay marriage.
"They are destroying the family, this … is just a Trojan Horse to allow marriage between gays," said the right-wing deputy speaker of the Senate, Roberto Calderoli. The "de facto couples" issue was one of the most controversial parts of Prodi’s manifesto in last year’s election where he beat Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative alliance by just a few thousand votes. Pope Benedict last year called on politicians to fight against civil unions – such as have been created in France, Spain and Britain – saying traditional marriage between men and women was a "pillar of humanity" that must not be altered.
Devoutly Catholic Justice Minister Clemente Mastella boycotted the special cabinet meeting which approved the bill. "Despite some timid improvements in successive drafts, the bill remains something which I oppose because it seeks solutions and guarantees which imitate marriage," he said. Mastella and other centre-left coalition Catholics control about seven seats in the Senate, where Prodi clings to power with a majority of just one seat. Mastella, who heads a small centrist party, said he would continue to support Prodi’s administration.
Similar to legislation passed in France, the law would give unwed couples greater access to joint health schemes, pensions, state housing and jobs. The Vatican and some Catholic politicians on the right and left fear this would lead to what they call "pseudo-marriages" for gays in civil ceremonies, undermining the traditional Christian family based on marriage between men and women. The issue has divided public opinion in Italy.
09 febbraio 2007
DICOs For De Facto Unions– Green light for bill that extends rights to homosexuals.
by Alessandra Arachi
English translation by Giles Watson (www.watson.it)
Green light for bill that extends rights to homosexuals. New agreements will be called DICOs (“rights and obligations of cohabiting couples”), not PACs. Romano Prodi comments that only two women could have done it. House of Freedoms will vote against “attack on family”.
ROME – At half past six in the evening, Barbara Pollastrini and Rosi Bindi walked into the Palazzo Chigi press room. Who knows whether they really thought they could say,“this is the civil unions bill”.Before they stepped into the room, they had received Prime Minister Prodi’s blessing.“It’s been an important weekand it took the determination of two women to achieve this result”. With thetwo ministers was a jubilant Giuliano Amato.Mr Amato had also taken part in the morning meeting at which Clemente Mastella again walked out, announcing a “no” vote at the afternoon’s meeting of the Council of Ministers. But his “no” became an abstention, or rather an absence, for the Justice Minister did not show up at the extraordinary meeting.Mr Amato was happy.“These are two of the midwives who helped this baby into the world”, he said, after the opening remarks of the minister for Equal Opportunities, Barbara Pollastrini.“You are here to witness a christening, the christening of DICO, which stands forrights and obligations of cohabiting couples”.
Negotiators invented the name in the hope that the compromising PACS acronym can be forgotten.They performed linguistic acrobatics and arabesques to reach an agreement that would heal the rift in the Union’s soul.Article 1, which defines de facto unions, was written and rewritten endlessly right up to the very last minute of the very last session.“It was written ‘as required’, like a good recipe”, said Ms Pollastrini, elegantly avoiding a direct question.
Inheritance And Other Rights –The upshot isthat DICOs will give to adult cohabitees, regardless of sex, a series of new rights, including inheritance, pensions, council house occupancy, concessions and employment safeguards.“These are all new rights: none is equivalent to marriage”, said Ms Bindi.She explained,“For example, article 10, which discusses pensions and refers to the reform of the pension system, does not mention reversibility. Instead, it invites legislators to identify a new principle”.
Registered Letter –The two cohabitees will have to go to the registry office to declare their de facto unionbut they do not need to go at the same time.If one partner goes alone, however, there is an obligationto send the other partner a registered letter, or else the union is not invalid.The law will be retroactive in certifying states of cohabitation.“But only in the first nine months after it comes into effect”, explained Rosi Bindi.Mr Amato pointed out that“when we talk about same-sex couples we are referring homosexuals but also to two elderly people living together.It is important, though,to note that employees, such as paid caregivers, are excluded.In other words,a parish priest and housekeeper do not constitute a de facto union”.
House Of Freedoms Says No – The negative reaction from the opposition was unanimous. National Alliance (AN) spokesman Andrea Ronchi made no bones about it. “This bill is yet another mockery from a Centre-left that does nothing to defend family values”. Christian Democrat (UDC) Rocco Buttiglione agreed. “The Union bill opens the door for fixed-term marriages. It’s a second-class marriage with much-reduced rights for the weaker partner, which almost always means the woman”. There was more harsh criticism from Forza Italia’s deputy coordinator Fabrizio Cicchitto and from spokesman Sandro Bondi, who said, “The Union government wants to destroy the institution of the family, just as Zapatero has in Spain”.
15 February 2007
A poll has revealed that an overwhelming majority of Italians approve of the government’s proposed legislation that will grant some rights to unmarried couples.
by Tony Grew
Last week the Cabinet unanimously approved the new legislation, which also grants rights to unmarried heterosexual couples. Now a survey for newspaper La Repubblica has found strong support for the measures. 67% of practising Catholics support protections for heterosexual co-habitees, a number which falls to 35% who think gay and lesbians should get legal protection. Overall, 80% of Italians are in favour. The nine-party left-of-centre coalition of Prime Minister Romano Prodi has spent months tussling over the new bill. Couples will be able to formally register with their local authority, and will have rights over property and inheritance. They will also have the right to visit their partner in hospital. The poll results will be a blow for the Vatican. They have been heavy-handed in their approach, asking Catholics MPs to make a personal commitment to "protect" marriage. It seems that their flock disagree.
Former Italian president Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, 88, who attends church on a daily basis, told the press that the Church should not interfere. "Should such an intervention take place … it would destroy the freedom and dignity of Catholic lawmakers in parliament," he told la Repubblica. A rigid attitude by the Church would be really damaging."
The new bill is expected to have a tough passage through the Italian parliament even without Church interference. The coalition has a healthy majority in the lower house, but the bill could fall in the Senate. Uniquely in Europe, both houses in Italy’s bicameral parliamentary system have equal power. Silvio Berlusconi, leader of the largest opposition party, Forza Italia, said his MPs could have a free vote on the issue. But this week attacked the proposed bill. "It creates exactly what we didn’t want, a sort of ‘second division’ marriage which devalues the meaning of family," he said on Monday, according to Reuters. "And it’s certainly a preface to allowing same-sex couples to adopt," he added
22 February 2007
Vatican attack Tony Blair over adoption
by Tony Grew
A senior Roman Catholic official has criticised the Prime Minister’s decision not to allow church-run adoption agencies to opt-out of gay rights legislation. The proposed exemption caused a Cabinet row when it was first proposed. Under pressure from his own MPs, Mr Blair finally conceded that Roman Catholic adoption services would be covered by the Sexual Orientation Regulations. The president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, Dr. Juan de Dios Vial Correa, said the government’s decision was an attack on freedom of conscience, reports the Irish Independent. The academy is an academic honorary society under the direction of the Vatican. The Sexual Orientation Regulations, which outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the provision of goods and services, were due to come into force in January.
Their introduction was delayed by Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly, and the government have said they will become law by April. The Roman Catholic church had argued that their adoption agencies should be exempted from accepting lesbian and gay couples as prospective adoptive parents because they regard gay sex as a perversion. Despite being sympathetic to their argument, the Prime Minister had to concede that there should be no exemptions to discrimination laws. The church-run adoption agencies have until the end of 2008 to comply with the regulations.
22 February 2007
Gay rights law threatened as Italian PM quits
by Tony Grew
Italy is without a leader after Romano Prodi resigned yesterday. He quit after left-wing members of his nine-party coalition voted against the government’s foreign policy. Mr Prodi’s decision leaves proposed new laws granting gay couples legal protection unresolved. The coalition lost a Senate motion backing the continued deployment of troops by two votes. Mr Prodi then met with the President and tendered his resignation. Italy has 2,000 troops in Afghanistan as part of a multi-national force. Earlier this month the coalition, which has only been in government since May 2006, agreed to bring forward legislation that would have granted legal recognition for gay and lesbian couples for the first time. Couples would have been able to formally register with their local authority, and have rights over property and inheritance. They would also have had the right to visit their partner in hospital.
The bill was expected to have a tough passage through the Italian parliament, but with the collapse of the coalition government it is unclear if the legislation will move forward. Gay campaigners complained that the proposed "civil pacts of solidarity" are a watered down version of what the coalition government had promised at last year’s election. Catholic MPs denounced the new bill as an attack on marriage. The President of Italy is now in talks with political parties to try to find a new coalition. Mr Prodi remains as a caretaker Prime Minister for the time being. While MPs in the lower house of the Italian parliament continue to support Mr Prodi, left-wing Senators are responsible for ushering him out of office. As well as concern over troops serving in Afghanistan, Senators opposed the expansion of a US military base in Vicenza. Large street protests took place last weekend opposing the American plan to have 5,000 soldiers based there
13 March 2007
Italians rally for gay and unwed couples’ rights
Rome – Thousands of Italians rallied today for legal rights for unmarried gay and heterosexual couples while Roman Catholics launched a movement against what many of them consider an attack on the "traditional" family. Demonstrators filled a Roman piazza in support of a bill to give unwed couples rights in areas like inheritance. Some wore bishops’ mitres with slogans against the Vatican, which sees the bill as an attack on the idea that families are based on marriage between men and women.
The rally included leftists from Prime Minister Romano Prodi’s coalition, which is divided on the issue. Some coalition Catholics call homosexuals "deviant" and promise to shoot down the bill, which is being studied by a parliamentary committee. Prodi, a practising Catholic, promised rights for de facto couples in his 2006 election campaign. "We won the election by promising to do something for over a million Italians who are not linked by religious marriage but want their rights recognised,"
Vladimir Luxuria, a transgender leftist deputy Vladimir Luxuria and Prodi supporter, said at the rally. Citing Prodi’s tiny majority in the Senate, which forced him to briefly resign last month, Luxuria said the bill’s supporters had "to be sensitive and open up the debate to the centre-right opposition". But Catholics in the opposition and in the government cite an article in the constitution recognising the family rights of "natural" unions "based on marriage". They insist this refers exclusively to heterosexual unions.
Pierferdinando Casini of the opposition Christian Democrats’ Union, opposed to the bill, said the sight of cabinet ministers contradicting each other, with some attending the demonstration, proved the "government has lost its way". Catholic lay groups responded to the rally by launching the "Committee for the Family". Its president, Olimpia Tarzia, said the left’s aim was "to attack the family as an institution" and equate homosexual unions with marriage. But one leader of rights group Arcigay, centre-left deputy Franco Grillini, said Italy had nothing to fear since 20 other European countries already had "much more radical" laws.
"None of these countries has seen the apocalyptic forecasts about the fate of the traditional family come true," he said. "On the country, Denmark, the first country to introduce gay marriage, has a higher birth rate than Italy." Supporters of the bill include Nobel prize-winning playwright Dario Fo and Rome’s mayor, Walter Veltroni. Some of them openly accuse the church of discrimination against gays. "We want to stop the Vatican interfering in Italian political life," said protester Ada Gregacci.
March 13, 2007
Rally in Rome seeks support for proposed rights for unmarried couples
Supporters of proposed Italian legislation to give many legal rights to unmarried couples, including gay people, rallied in Rome on Saturday to urge lawmakers to resist Vatican pressure against the law. Premier Roman Prodi’s cabinet last month approved the rights bill, which now faces what could be a tough battle in parliament and which has heightened tensions in his often bickering center-left coalition. A Christian Democrat cabinet minister refused to vote on the measure, while far-left members of the coalition, including Communists and Greens, have been vigorously campaigning for its passage. A senator from a pro-Vatican centrist party in the coalition recently was criticized for making remarks gay leaders described as hostile.
Thousands of rally participants, some of them waving rainbow-colored flags, streamed into Piazza Farnese, chosen by organizers because in 2002 two Italian men registered their union in the French consulate there under a French law that gives broad legal rights to gay couples. "Equal in opportunity, free in choice," read one banner.
Italy’s proposed legislation would grant legal rights to unmarried couples who live together, both in heterosexual and same-sex relationships. Some rights, such as hospital visiting rights, would be granted immediately, while couples would have to live together for several years to be eligible for inheritance rights, for example. Pope Benedict XVI has been leading a campaign against legal recognition for unmarried couples and has denounced any efforts aimed at allowing gays to marry. Equal Opportunity minister Barbara Pollastrini told reporters at the rally that the law would recognize "people’s rights and duties and ability to be responsible" for each other in a stable relationship and would make Italy a more civilized country.
Opponents of the law, including pro-Vatican politicians, said they would organize a "family day" rally in coming weeks to oppose the proposed legislation.
13th March 2007
Gay rights activists rally in Rome
by Christopher Hayes
Pope Benedict XVI said in a Vatican speech that the family "shows signs of ceding to lobbies capable of negatively eroding the legislative process. " Thousands of Italians marched on Rome on Saturday to demand legal rights for unmarried same sex couples. 50,000 activists, including leftists from Prime Minister Romano Prodi’s coalition, took to a Roman piazza and rallied in support for a bill that would offer greater legal protection to unmarried couples. Some demonstrators wore bishop’s mitres with slogans that attacked the Vatican. Catholics in Prodi’s coalition government as well as opposition parties have promised to shoot down the bill.
They have drawn attention to an article in the constitution that recognises the family rights of "natural" unions "based on marriage." They argue that the article only accommodates heterosexual unions. In response to the rally, Catholic groups launched the "Committee for the Family." Olimpia Tarzia, the organisation’s president, accused the left of trying to "attack the family as an institution" and put gay unions on a par with marriage, according to Reuters The Vatican has taken a similar stance. In February Pope Benedict XVI said in a Vatican speech that the family "shows signs of ceding to lobbies capable of negatively eroding the legislative process. "Divorce and free unions are on the rise, meanwhile adultery is viewed with an unjustifiable tolerance," he added.
Pierferdinando Casini, an opposition member of the Christian Democrats’ Union, pointed to contradictions within the coalition and said that the "government has lost its way". But some gay rights groups have argued that the bill is not radical enough. Franco Grillini, a leader of the gay rights group Arcigay, pointed to legislation in other European countries. "None of these countries has seen the apocalyptic forecasts about the fate of the traditional family come true," he told Reuters. "On the contrary, Denmark, the first country to introduce gay marriage, has a higher birth rate than Italy," he added. The bill grew out of Prime Minister Roman Prodi’s 2006 election campaign and is currently being scrutinized by a parliamentary committee.
Vladimir Luxuria, a transgender leftist deputy and Prodi supporter told Reuters: "We won the election by promising to do something for over a million Italians who are not linked by religious marriage but want their rights recognised." But he warned that because of Prodi’s tiny majority in the Senate, supporters of the bill had "to be sensitive and open up the debate to the centre-right opposition." Under the proposed legislation unmarried couples of any sexual orientation would be able to formally register with their local authority and receive legal rights in areas such as property, inheritance and employment
14th March 2007
Vatican attacks kids attending gay rights rally
by Tony Grew
The official newspaper of the Vatican has lambasted the demonstration in Rome on Saturday to demand legal rights for unmarried same sex couples. L’Osservatore Romano said that children attending the event were the victims of abuse. 50,000 activists, including leftists from Prime Minister Romano Prodi’s coalition, rallied in a Roman piazza in support of a bill that would offer greater legal protection to unmarried couples. The paper called the children at the demonstration, "the fruit of previous relations or of in-vitro fertilization." It went on to assert that by attending the rally with their parents, the children were being "abused in order to create the image of a family." L’Osservatore Romano also complained that some demonstrators insulted Catholics and the church.
Some of those on the protest march wore bishop’s mitres with slogans that attacked the Vatican. The paper accused protestors of "demanding recognition from others, but do not demonstrate respect for others themselves." Catholics in Prime Minister Prodi’s coalition government as well as opposition parties have promised to block the proposed gay rights legislation. L’Osservatore Romano is published daily in Italian and weekly in several other languages. Its website features a page entitled "Most Beautiful Photos of The Pope."
Cardinal says Pope should stop giving orders
16 March 2007
by Rachel Charman
An Italian cardinal has criticised other church leaders for opposing the legal recognition of same-sex partnerships. Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini told Italian pilgrims in Bethlehem yesterday that, "The Church does not give orders." His statement is seen by many as a clear rebuke to the Pope’s stance in the current Italian same-sex union row. The retired cardinal was speaking at the basilica of the Nativity, celebrating mass with 1,300 visitors from Milan.
Cardinal Martini, 80, also believes that the Catholic church should actively try to make Catholic beliefs attractive to the secular community. He said: "It is necessary to listen to others, and when speaking to use terms that they understand," according to cwnews.com. Martini has long been an outspoken advocate of more liberal views within the Catholic church, and has contradicted the church’s views on issues such as stem cell research, abortion and condom use.
Earlier this week the Pope said that politicians have a moral duty to vote against gay marriage or partnership legislation. In a 140-page document covering a range of moral issues, Pope Benedict has reiterated his hard-line attitude towards gay people. The Apostolic Exhortation, published on Tuesday, calls on all Catholics to uphold what the Pontiff refers to as fundamental values.
"Catholic politicians and legislators, conscious of their grave responsibility before society, must feel particularly bound, on the basis of a properly formed conscience, to introduce laws inspired by values grounded in human nature," he wrote, according to Reuters. The Pope said it was up to individual bishops whether to deny the sacrament of communion to politicians who defy the church’s teaching.
Cardinal Martini was once considered a leading candiate for the Papacy. When he stepped down as Archbishop of Milan in 2005, after 22 years in the job, he was described by Vatican watchers as "The man who should have been Pope."
30 March 2007
Church’s anti-gay directive causes Italian political uproar
Political uproar in the wake of a Church directive telling Catholic politicians to vote against gay rights legislation has promted new charges of church interference in domestic Italian affairs. The directive came from the Italian Bishops Conference as politicians consider a law to give homosexual and heterosexual unmarried couples more rights. Prime Minister Romano Prodi’s center-left coalition has tabled a bill in Parliament that guarantees rights to unmarried couples in such areas as inheritance and health care. Some opponents fear it could eventually lead to gay marriage in Italy.
The Bishops directive said that Catholics could not hide behind "the principle of pluralism" or compromise on what it called the ethical needs of society. It added that Catholic politicians had "the moral duty to clearly and publicly voice their disagreement and vote against any proposed law that would recognize homosexual couples." While some Catholic and centrist politicians welcomed the directive as food for thought, other lawmakers and civil rights groups condemned it as outright interference.
"This continuous, daily interference by the church in parliament’s activity is intolerable," said leftist senator Luisa Boccia. "What’s next, excommunication?" Two weeks ago, Pope Benedict said the church’s opposition to gay marriage was "nonnegotiable" and that Catholic politicians had a duty to oppose it. Prodi, a Catholic, has said the draft law should not be seen as a threat to the traditional family. But some of his ministers have vowed to fight it in Parliament, and some are expected to attend a big demonstration planned for May 12 in defense of the traditional family. Commentators said the strongly worded note and the equally passionate reaction has raised a simmering conflict between the church and the state to a new level.
10 April 2007
Italian bishop under police guard after gay comment
Rome -The head of Italy’s bishops conference was under police guard on Tuesday after someone spray painted "shame" on the doors of his cathedral over his comparison of gay rights to incest and paedophilia. A police spokeswoman said Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco was being accompanied by an escort after graffiti reading "Shame On You Bagnasco" appeared at the San Lorenzo Cathedral in the northern city of Genoa on Tuesday (NZT). Bagnasco, who was appointed last month to head the Italian Bishops Conference, has been vocal in the Church campaign against legislation that would grant rights to unmarried couples, including homosexuals.
The Vatican says it would weaken the institution of marriage, and the bishops conference last week issued a directive ordering Catholic politicians to vote against it, leading to cries of Church interference in politics. Bagnasco, who is also archbishop of the northern city, further incensed the gay lobby with his comments last weekend.
"Why say ‘no’ to forms of legally recognised co-habitation which create alternatives to the family? Why say ‘no’ to incest?" Bagnasco said at a meeting of Church workers, according to a newspaper report. "Why say ‘no’ to the paedophile party in Holland?" he added, referring to the Dutch Brotherly Love, Freedom and Diversity party which wants to cut the age of consent from 16 to 12 and legalise child pornography. Even Bagnasco’s critics condemned the graffiti.
Sergio Lo Giudice, head of gay rights group Arcigay which supports the legislation, offered his "solidarity with Bagnasco for the writings. But (I have) even more solidarity with the victims of his statements about paedophilia and de facto families," he added. The legislation would grant rights in areas such as health care and inheritance to unmarried couples – including same-sex ones – who register their relationship.
May 12, 2007
Rome’s Anti-Gay "Family Day"–a Letter from Rome
This first-hand report on the huge anti-gay demonstration in Rome today was written exclusively for this blog by DIRELAND’s Rome correspondent, Judy Harris. A veteran expat journalist who wrote from Italy for years for TIME and the Wall Street Journal, Judy now writes for ARTnews and in June publishes a new book (right), "Pompeii Awakened: A Story of Rediscovery" (I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd.)
Rome – Everyone knows that the Italian family, the more dynastic and inbred the better, is the heart and soul of Italy—think Gucci, think Agnelli, think the Mafia. Hence the electricity in the build-up to today’s (Saturday’s) celebration in the vast Piazza San Giovanni of that newest of Roman holidays, “la giornata della famiglia”, which in Italian is spelled, and written, “Family Day” (pronunciation: fam-ee-lee dai). From the Alps to the immigrant-crammed Italian islets off Libya, half a million aficionados of the family today converged on the Eternal City on May 12 via parish-chartered bus, special train, automobile, motor scooter, roller skate and tricycle, for what is being presented as one of the greatest mass turn-outs in recent Italian history — organizers later claimed one million came out today, while more neutral media cited a police figure of 250,000.
Leading the pro-family crusaders today was the stocky, solidly Catholic Minister for the Family Rosi Bindi (left). “Certainly, some clergymen will also want to be there,” hinted Mons. Giuseppe Betori (right), Secretary general of the Council of Italian Bishops (CEI). The event coincided with the day 33 years ago when divorce became legal. And indeed some of the secular-minded within the government ruling coalition, including the Radical party’s representative in the cabinet Emma Bonino (right) — she is Minister for International Trade and European Policies — are joining in a counter-demonstration today, three kilometers away in the Piazza Navona. The counter-demo hoped to serve, among other things, to remind Italians of the Radicals’ work on behalf of the other successful referenda back in the mid-Seventies which introduced, after divorce, legal abortion in public hospitals.
Other cabinet ministers were somewhat torn between private Catholic conscience and secular convictions. Deputy Premier and Culture Minister Francesco Rutelli has offended many in the Center-left government of Premier Romano Prodi by refusing to attend the Family Day although, as he announced, “if I were merely a Member of Parliament, I would” (i.e., not in the cabinet). From the Party of the Democratic Left’s Massimo D’Alemma, himself a former premier, this brought a whiplash comment, in which he implied Rutelli is a hypocrite, “Even if I were a ‘mere’ Member of Parliament, I would not attend the Family Day demonstration," he said. One good reason: the DICO legislation under siege by the Family Day supporters today is a law promoted by that same government Rutelli is supposedly representing.
As for the leader of the conservative opposition, former Premier Silvio Berlusconi (left) was hemming and hawing until the last minute, still uncertain whether or not to attend Family Day celebrations. He is in an awkward position: as leader of a rightist coalition Berlusconi is under siege by Pier Ferdinando Casini (right), the head of the powerful Catholic party UDC (Unione dei Democratici Cattolici). Berlusconi is very much a family man, with one divorced wife in the shadows and another divorce in the wings, with children from both wives spanning an ample arc of time. This somewhat hypocritical position, together with the reputation of Italian males for two-timing, has generated the sole Family Day joke I’ve heard so far, apart from the concept.
Here it is: “Giovanni will go down into the piazza for the demos–in the morning to Piazza San Giovanni with his wife, and in the afternoon, to Piazza Navona with his mistress.”
Like Berlusconi — who in the end finally showed up — the Church, the architect of this challenge to lay Italy, was in something of a quandary. Priests have been given official authorization to march in the piazzas, but, making a delicate distinction, bishops were denied by their superiors permission. Also, Following on the heels of this mega-event will be a national conference on the family to be held in Florence in late May, and the same sort of delicate distinctions mark the decision of the organizer, Minister Bindi, to exclude from it the presence of organizations like ARCIGAY yet welcome the Italian support group of parents of gay individuals, the AGEDO (Associazione di Genitori di Omosessuali).
Behind the scenes has been the fight for control of the event’s TV coverage, which is the real crunch.
Almost all networks are owned by either Berlusconi or by the Italian state. But the nation-wide state-owned RAI, with its three networks, is controlled by a 40-member oversight commission of busy parliamentarians. Through conservative finagling of quorum rules the oversight committee’s actions obliging coverage of both events has successfully been blocked, and the organizers of the pro-civil unions Piazza Navona event are in despair. Polls show that fewer than a third of Italians were aware of the rival event to the Catholic show of family power. And indeed, this pro-gay "rainbow" gathering managed to rally only a few thousand, compared to the hundreds of thousands who turned out at the Vatican’s appeal.
In another setback, the International Day Against Homphobia (IDAHO) on May 17 was to have been marked by nineteen Italian cities, but, due to a contemporary visit by George Bush to Italy, the date of the Italian participation has been pushed back into June. This would have something of the picturesque about it save for the fact that the heart of the matter is political. A bill known by its initials as the DICO, which would legalize non-traditional partnerships, including gay ones, is to go before Parliament, and the so-called Family Day is a de facto political plebescite in the piazzas for or against the DICO.
The Italian Church is going to the mattresses to fight this. To quote the rhetorical statement by controversial Mons. Angelo Bagnasco from Genoa (right), head of the conference of Italian bishops, “And shall we not say no today to forms of stable cohabitation which are alternatives to the family, when tomorrow incest is to be legalized, or pedophilia among consenting individuals?” When this made headlines, with its implying that the proposed new DICO –which would legalize gay and other stable relations — is the gateway to legalized pedophilia and incest, Bagnasco’s spokesman said he had been misinterpreted (“summary syntheses which are only partial and misleading”).
Elsewhere Bagnasco claimed higher authority. “[Pope] Benedict XVI himself said that there is risk is in pursuing desires, expectations and dreams. The focus upon what one desires exposes the dreamer to the risk of the passage from behavior that is considered illegal to legal behavior. Only if we ensure that legal norms remain a strong foundation can we be certain that this does not happen.”
Said one politician from the Radical party today: “Never since the Seventies have we see the Church so mobilized.”
Church spokesmen deny that they are exerting “undue pressure on the legislators,” however. The head of the Italian Bishops’ commission on the family, Mons. Giuseppe Anfossi (left), also complained that the Church “simply” wants to defend the family and marriage from what is a “real lobby, beginning with that [lobby] linked to the world of homosexuality. We are defending the simple folk," he added — presuming, of course, that they speak enough English to know the words "Family Day."
June 16, 2007
Gay Pride attracts tens of thousands in Rome
Rome (AFP) – The raucous and colourful crowd, which included transvestites and lawmakers, marched under a baking sun from Rome’s Saint Paul’s Gate to the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, the official ecclesiastical seat of the Pope as Bishop of Rome, where anti-gay protestors had staged a giant rally last month. The marchers held up banners screaming: "For a more European Italy," "Rights for All," and "Equality, Dignity and Secularism," as they called upon Prime Minister Romano Prodi to speed up plans to recognise gay unions.
"We are heteros, gays, lesbians and bisexual and we want Romano Prodi to give the same rights to all. Where are all the promises the government made? Evaporated into nothingness?" questioned a drag queen, seated on one of the several floats that went around.
Demonstrators pass in front of the ancient Colosseum during the annual Gay Pride parade
© AFP Andreas Solaro
Vladimir Luxuria, a transvestite lawmaker who wore a grey and red satin gown, told AFP: "I hope that 2007 will be the year when the rights of gays, lesbians and bisexuals are recognised to give us all more peaceful lives."
Several government ministers turned up to demonstrate their support. "I am here to salute the participants of the Gay Pride … because their demands are positive. They bring up problems and questions which concern all Italians," Social Solidarity Minister Paolo Ferrero said. Prodi’s government proposed allowing civil unions, called DICO in Italy, in February. The planned law, which would also give unmarried heterosexual couples more rights, has met with strong opposition from conservatives and centre-left Catholics in parliament.
Participants pass in front of St. John in Lateran Basilica during a Gay Pride parade
© AFP Andreas Solaro
Pope Benedict XVI has recently spoken out against hedonism and the "worrying disorientation" of society, with marriage and the family under attack. He also upheld the traditional values of fidelity in marriage and chastity for priests. Top Italian Archbishop Angelo Bagnasco recently received a bullet and his photograph stamped with a swastika in the mail, apparently for his opposition to civil unions. Bagnasco, who is archbishop of Genoa and also president of the Italian Episcopal Conference, maintains that a family can only be founded on marriage between a man and a woman and has appeared to compare same-sex partnerships to incest or paedophilia.
June 16, 2007
Letter from Rome: Rome’s Gay Pride Today Endorsed By Government–Sort Of…
Rome – Arriving by plane, train and 200 special buses, over 100,000 men and women converged today on the Eternal City for Gay Pride Day, with some optimists predicting twice that number. The anti-homophobia event, in open defiance of the Catholic Church, is being celebrated today, one week later than in other countries, to avoid its coinciding with President George W. Bush’s visit to Rome June 9. As transgendered member of Parliament and LGBT rights activist Vladimir Luxuria of Rifondazione Comunista led the parade, slogans were chanted, among them: "Prodi, Prodi dove sei? Oggi Roma e’ tutta gay" ("Prodi, Prodi, where do you stay? Today all of Rome is gay." ) Banners proclaimed, "For a more European Italy," "Rights for All," "More Freedom, Less Vatican," and "Equality, Dignity and Secularism," the official Rome Pride slogan. (In addition to Luxuria, there are two out gay men and one out lesbian in the Italian parliament, plus one openly bi-sexual MP: Alfonso Pecoraio Scario, president of the Italian Green Party, who marched today.)
Today’s two-mile-long parade route studiously avoided all monuments of historic Rome save for the Coliseum, and never approached St. Peter’s Square. Beginning at 4 pm on this sultry Saturday, the paraders, with 40 floats and hundreds of colorful balloons, were snaking their way from Piazzale Ostiense toward the Aventine Hill and onward to the huge square in front of the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, a major Roman Catholic landmark. This vast piazza traditionally hosts mass events, and indeed a rival rally, organized to promote the traditional family, attracted hundreds of thousands there on May 12. In a coup for the organizers, for the first time in Italian history the national government figures among Gay Pride’s institutional sponsors, who already included the governments of the Lazio region and of the province and city of Rome. This week, the government’s council of ministers formally voted to support Rome Pride. But a nervous Prime Minister Prodi (right) ordered that no minister could march in the parade or ride on one of its colorful floats, but several cabinet ministers, including Paolo Ferrero (left), Minister for Social Solidarty, participated anyway. Addressing the crowd at its departure, Minister Ferrero said that, "The DiCo [civil unions] were in the coalition’s program, and the Union [the government political parties’ umbrella organization] took votes on this."
The delicate and controversial negotiations for government co-sponsorship of Rome Pride were negotiated by Equal Opportunity Minister Barbara Pollastrini of the DS party (Democratici di Sinistra), who began her political career in the local Communist party organization in Milan. However, watering down the significance of cabinet sponsorship, she explained that, "Sponsorship is limited to the cultural aspects related to the event, not to the event itself." Many Pride marchers weren’t buying the government’s tepidity and its distancing itself from the demonstration. "We are heteros, gays, lesbians and bisexual and we want Romano Prodi to give the same rights to all. Where are all the promises the government made? Evaporated into nothingness?" one cross-dresser on a float told AFP.
Many expected that the walkup to Gay Pride Day would turn into a frontal clash with the Church, but the Italian bishops were told in no uncertain terms that they are to keep a low profile and avoid conflict today. But others spoke for them, with government semi-sponsorship of Rome Pride the pretext which irritated the more rigidly Roman Catholic Church politicians, collectively known as "i teodem" (the theo-democrats).
"This government discriminates against the family," charged Isabella Bertolini, MP with Berlusconi’s Forza Italia conservative coalition. "The government sponsors Gay Pride but would not sponsor Family Day. What a terrible disgrace for the State." She dubbed the trio of government ministers who openly support Gay Pride day "nothing but hypocrites — they save face by supporting the event which they choose not to attend." Echoing her words was Lorenzo Cesa, secretary of Casini’s UDC, who declared that "the support the government is giving to gay pride through its ministers, and which was not given to Family Day, is an insult to the Italian family."
Silvio Berlusconi excepted, the most prominent conservative leader in Italy today is Pier Ferdinando Casini, 52, of the Unione Democratici Cristiani (UDC). The Hon. Casini is a former president of the Chamber of Deputies and a front-running candidate to succeed Berlusconi as leader of Italian conservatives in the (at present still unlikely) case that Berlusconi bows out. Like most conservatives in Italy, Casini opposes legislation that would allow civil partnerships, even though he is on his own second family. His partner is Azzurra Caltagirone, the daughter of the powerful businessman cum publisher Francesco Gaetano Caltagirone. From his earlier marriage Casini has two children; with Azzurra he has one. Among today’s Gay Pride goals is the promised law on civil partnerships, but Prodi’s government itself is divided on the issue. Little progress has been made, and, as center-left cohesion dwindles, passage of civil unions seems more unlikely than ever.
If security becomes an issue, clashes may erupt tonight in the Villaggio Italia park on the Via Tiburtina outskirts, where a benefit party to finance today’s event is organized. According to Rossana Praitano, spokesperson for Gay Pride Roma 2007, organizers arrived this morning to find walls of the park scribbled with swastikas and slogans like "La Roma fascista non vi vuole" (Fascist Rome does not want you). The Mario Mieli Club of homosexual culture and today’s event have been the butt of daily harassment by anonymous small bands of fascists," Praitano said. (The late Mario Mieli 1952-1983, was a brilliant young radical poet and the founding theorist of Italian gay liberation in the early ’70s. In 1971 Mieli launched Italy’s first gay liberation group, FUORI! — the Fronte Unitario Omosessuale Rivoluzionario Italiano. "FUORI!," which also means "Come Out!" in Italian, was also the title of Mieli’s pioneering 1971 book of gay liberation theory.)
Pride spokesperson Praitano added, "Evidently the fascists feel protected because of the incautious statements made by some politicians. We are appealing to the Interior Minister Giuliano Amato and to the Rome Prefect Achille Serra to guarantee the personal safety and security of the participants." Legal recognition of gay and other civil partnerships in Italy, known here as Dico (de facto partnerships), was one of the unkept promises made by the faltering Center-Left government headed by Romano Prodi. In a draft bill presented to parliament on May 17 and signed by over a dozen MPs from four progressive parties, the 22-year-old national Italian LGBT organization Arcigay wrote that, whereas progress on that front has been made elsewhere, "The reality in our country is different," and went on to say that Italy lacks, among other things, anti-discriminatory legislation.
True–and the stony silence being observed by the Church in Italy ignores the bullying and violence which continues against gays, particularly young boys. Last April a 16-year-old, Matteo, tormented by his schoolmates in Turin for allegedly being too girlish, committed suicide. (Matteo’s needless death was cited in the European Parliament’s sweeping resolution on homophobia passed in April.) Last week the Italian press reported that another adolescent was beaten to a pulp by his father for being gay–family values, as it were, in action. It is all the more sadly ironic, then, that the Church in Italy is not winning its battle in favor of its restrictive version of family values. The numbers of first communions and confirmations are in slight but constant decline, with the former shrinking from 9.9 to 8.4 per thousand Catholics and the latter, from 22.2 to 8.6 per thousand, during the five years 1991-2004. The aging population is one reason, but so is "an increasing alienation from the Catholic religion, as numerous research shows," according to researcher Silva Sansonetti. And the percentange of Catholic marriage is similarly shrinking, from 87.7% to 79.5% for the same period (the most recent statistics available).
Curiously, it was in the neighborhood of San Giovanni where, in 1581, a group of Portuguese Catholics founded what amounted to a male confraternity in which marriage rites were held. All were burned alive as punishment. What has changed in the centuries since then? According to a new book by University of Bologna Sociology Professors Marzio Barbagli and Asher Colombo, Omosessuali Moderni, published by the distinguished Il Mulino, Italy is among the last countries in Europe to have changed attitudes. The law and politics have lagged behind public perceptions of homosexuality, the authors demonstrate. For the record, the Church position on homosexuality was codified by John Paul II in a book he published: Theology of the Body, a compendium of his addresses between 1979 and l984. In it, the late pontiff maintained that, while homosexual attraction is not sinful, it "is more or less a strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder." Since then the Church position has further hardened–not coincidentally, with the pedophile scandals which have rocked the Church in both the U.S. and Europe, from Ireland to Austria, and not excluding Italy itself. — by Judy Harris in Rome
July 16, 2007
Gay art show cancelled in Milan; organizers cite censorship
Milan, (CWNews.com) – Sponsors of a controversial art exhibit in Milan have cancelled the show after the city’s mayor demanded the removal of several offensive works, the ANSA news agency reports. The show, entitled "Art and Homosexuality," had become the center of a fiery public debate even before its scheduled opening on July 17. Organizers had agreed to pull two particularly controversial works, including one sculpture that portrayed a man resembling Pope Benedict XVI (bio – news) in drag. But they balked when Mayor Letizia Moratti demanded the removal of 10 more pieces from the exhibit. The mayor had argued that the 10 works in question, along with the 2 already removed, were offensive to the sensibilities of Catholics and inappropriate for viewing by children. Several of the works involved young people or made references to religious figures.
A Milan official responsible for cultural affairs, Vittorio Sgarbi, mocked the mayor’s concern for Catholic sensibilities by calling her “Sister Letizia.” Sgarbi said that the show’s organizers were right to cancel the exhibition rather than submit to "extreme censorship."
July 28, 2007
Italian gay groups protest after two men say they were detained for kissing in public
The Associated Press
Rome – Italian gay rights groups said Saturday they would hold public "kiss-ins" near the Colosseum next week to protest the detention of two men by police for kissing in front of the famous Rome monument. Some lawmakers said they would discuss the incident in parliament, while gay rights groups accused the police of discrimination. There were contradictory versions of the events that led to the detention. The Carabinieri paramilitary police confirmed the two men were held for about 40 minutes early Friday and released after being reported for committing lewd acts in public — a crime that can carry a sentence of up to 2 years in jail. The two were "not just kissing" and the officers would have detained the couple also if it had been a heterosexual one, said Carabinieri official Col. Alessandro Casarsa.
"They acted because there was a couple that was committing a lewd act in front of one of the most viewed monuments in Italy," Casarsa said without elaborating. "We apply the law to all in the same way, men and women." Arcigay, the main Italian gay rights group, hired a lawyer for the couple and identified the men as Roberto L. and Michele M., saying that the two, aged 27 and 28, had only shared a gesture of affection after a night out in the gay bars that line one of the streets near the Colosseum.
"Roberto and Michele were only kissing, all other statements are false," the group said in a statement. Arcigay said it would hold its protest near the Colosseum on Thursday, while another group, the Mario Mieli Club, scheduled a rally of public kissing in front of the 2,000-year-old arena for Sunday night. Vladimir Luxuria, a Communist politician and Italy’s first transvestite lawmaker, was one of the representatives saying she would call on the government to explain the incident in parliament.
"It’s worrying that a gesture of affection is considered a crime," she told La Repubblica daily. "It’s absurd that two young people who love each other should spend the night in a police station without having done anything obscene." While enraged by the detention, gay rights groups hailed as a victory a decision Friday by Italy’s highest criminal court recognizing that homosexuals who migrate clandestinely to Italy should not be sent back to their country if they could face persecution, news reports said. Italian dailies reported that the Court of Cassation, ruling on the expulsion order for a Senegalese immigrant, did not allow the man to stay but ordered a judge to re-examine his case and verify his claim that he would be persecuted at home.
30th July 2007
Protest over gay kiss arrest in Rome
by Yepoka Yeebo
Couples held a sit-in with collective kissing in front of the Colosseum yesterday after two men were arrested for ‘public indecency’ in front of the iconic Roman monument last week. Politicians and campaigning groups say the arrests were symptomatic of a rising tide of homophobic harassment in Italy, but the police force, the Carabinieri, say they were simply following the law. An extract from the police report, published by Italian daily Corriere della Sera, said that the couple, identified as ‘Roberto L’, 27 and ‘Michele M’, 28 "had their trousers and underpants down."
"They acted because there was a couple that was committing a lewd act in front of one of the most viewed monuments in Italy," said Carabinieri official Alessandro Casarsa, speaking to AP. We apply the law to all in the same way, men and women. True discrimination would have been to not arrest them." Gay rights group Arcigay, said the couple had just shared a gesture of affection after a night out at one of the gay bars lining a street near the Colosseum. "Roberto and Michele were only kissing, all other statements are false," they said in a statement.
"It’s worrying that a gesture of affection is considered a crime," said Vladimir Luxuria, a Communist party representative and Italy’s first transgender member of parliament, speaking to Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica. "It’s absurd that two young people who love each other should spend the night in a police station without having done anything obscene." Despite the controversy, campaigning groups were celebrating on Friday, after Italy’s highest criminal court announced that gay people who seek refuge from persecution in Italy would not be sent back to their countries of origin.
1 August 2007
Festival to offer gay film prize
Films with a gay theme or character are to be recognised with a new award at the Venice Film Festival. The Queer Lion award, a take on the festival’s main Golden Lion prize, will go to the best full-length film featuring a gay theme or character. Competition director Daniel Casagrande said it had taken four years of negotiations to introduce the award. He has said he expects "around 10 or 12" films to be candidates for the inaugural prize. He added: "We aren’t looking for the next Brokeback Mountain. We are just looking for films that accurately portray gay characters or themes."
Films entering the main competition are eligible for the award, as are other films being shown at the festival, which runs from 29 August to 8 September. A small international jury will select the winner, who will be presented with a gold plaque featuring the Venice Lion winged logo with the rainbow colours of the gay pride flag on the wings. The Berlin International Film Festival has been handing out a similar prize, the Teddy Award, for the past 21 years as an offshoot of its Golden Bear award.
August 3, 2007
Romans take pride in first ‘Gay Street’
by Paul Bompard, Financial Times, in Rome
A cobbled street in central Rome has become, by decree of the municipal council, the Eternal City’s "Gay Street". It is the first of its kind in Catholic Italy. Two blocks of bars and restaurants leading up to the Colosseum will now be closed to traffic from 9pm to 2am, Thursday to Sunday, and officially designated as a recreation ground for Rome’s homosexuals. The city’s decision was made days after two men were arrested for kissing by the Colosseum. It caused an avalanche of protest and the centre-left city council, sensitive to the pink vote, responded with Gay Street. Rome’s alderman for equal opportunities, Cecilia D’Elia, said: "We hope this street becomes a meeting place during the Roman summer, a place to promote culture, light-heartedness, solidarity." The Colosseum end of Via San Giovanni in the Laterano district has been a de facto gay area for years, thronged every evening by hundreds of homosexuals.
At the street’s inauguration three ministers from Italy’s centre-left coalition, all from non-Catholic parties, rubbed shoulders with city dignitaries and leaders of the gay movement. But within the gay community there has been criticism that the street might become a homosexual ghetto or zoo. "We are glad the city has officially recognised us," said Tiziana, the lesbian cook-cum-barmaid of Coming Out, a gay bar and restaurant. "Perhaps in a way it is a ghetto, but everywhere else we get strange looks. We are treated like freaks. At least this is recognition that we exist and deserve respect."
Three doors down, Ettore Cuocolo, the manager of Pizza Forum, was less happy.
"This is not a gay pizzeria, it is a Neapolitan pizzeria. I have nothing against gays," he said. "But most of them come to drink in the gay bars, not to eat pizza, and I’ve had some customers, families, that don’t come any more because of the crowds of gays all over the street." Rome’s Catholic hierarchy has remained unusually silent on the subject, but the right-wing opposition on the city council has not. "This is a situation bordering on indecency," declared Fabrizio Mollicone, city councillor for the post-Fascist National Alliance, whose leader is Gianfranco Fini. "At night sexual acts are consummated on the tables of closed restaurants and even in the hallways of apartment buildings."
National Alliance activists are collecting signatures from residents, many irritated by the nightly crowds and noise, for a petition against the official status of Gay Street and to make its bars close earlier.
August 6, 2007
Protests mar opening of Rome’s "Gay street"
Beijing, Aug. 6 (Xinhuanet) – "Gay Street" opened Friday in Rome with flags and banners flying and amid protests about a homosexual couple who claimed they were detained by police for kissing near the Colosseum. Gay rights activists welcomed a 325-yard zone in the center of the city — filled with shops and bars — as an area where gays can "feel at ease," after days of heated debate in predominantly Roman Catholic Italy over the kissing incident. "This will be an area where people can feel at ease, and it is also meant to be a bridge between the citizens and the homosexual community," activist Fabrizio Marrazzo, the Rome leader of Italy’s Arcigay gay rights movement, said Friday.
The two men were detained briefly last week for what the police said were lewd acts in public — a crime that can carry a sentence of up to two years in jail. Police said the two were not just kissing and they would have behaved the same way if it had been a heterosexual couple. Right-wingers have protested the City Hall’s decision to close the area to traffic for three nights a week through Sept. 8.
"Nobody wants to condemn those who practice a different sexuality, but to dedicate a street only to gays and lesbians I think it’s a sort of useless and marginalizing project," right wing politician Piergiorgio Benvenuti was quoted as saying by the daily Il Giornale. Gay rights came into the spotlight in Italy when the government recently proposed a bill aimed at granting legal rights to unmarried and same-sex couples. The legislation sparked controversy and angered the Vatican, which under Pope Benedict XVI has been conducting a fierce campaign to protect traditional marriage between a man and a woman. The bill requires parliamentary approval.
24th August 2007
Italian government has confirmed that they will grant ayslum to a lesbian woman
by PinkNews.co.uk writer
A spokesperson for Italian government has confirmed that they will grant ayslum to a lesbian woman due to be deported from the UK to Iran. Pegah Emambakhsh is currently being detained by British officials and she is scheduled for repatriation on Tuesday. Her sexual orientation and her past life in Iran may lead to her being executed. Even if she is not sentenced to death, she is likely to be prosecuted and tortured by Iran’s religious officials. Punishment for sexual intercourse among lesbians in Iran is 100 lashes and in case of recidivity, execution.
Italian equal opportunties minister Barbara Pollastrini has Italy’s prime minister Romano Prodi’s support over granting asylum to Emambakhsh, a ministry spokesman told news website Adnkronos International (AKI). The 40-year-old Iranian sought asylum in the UK in 2005. She had escaped from her home country after her partner was arrested, tortured, and subsequently sentenced to death by stoning. Her father was also arrested, interrogated and tortured for information on her whereabouts. The claim for asylum was rejected by the UK Border and Immigration Agency (BIA), despite her appeals.
Ms Emambakhsh was finally arrested in Sheffield two weeks ago and taken to Yarls Wood Immigration Removal Centre in Bedfordshire. The Asylum Seeker Support Initiative, who are supporting Ms Emambhaksh’s case, said in a statement: "BAI has chosen not to believe that she is in such danger if returned to Iran, even though the UK government are well aware of the terrible situation that gay people face there. BIA will be committing a serious miscarriage of justice and human rights violation if they insist on Ms Emambhaksh’s deportation."
She was due to be deported on 16th August, but her removal from the UK was stalled by the late intervention of the office of Sheffield Central Member of Parliament Richard Caborn. Many lesbians and gay men have been executed since the Ayatollahs came to power in 1979. According to gay rights group Outrage: "The Islamic Republic of Iran is qualitatively more homophobic than almost any other state on earth. "Its government-promoted and religious-sanctioned torture and execution of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people marks out Iran as a state acting in defiance of all agreed international human rights conventions."
September 10, 2007
Parliament member Franco Grillini protests to UCOII, Unacceptable Declaration about Pegah, Homosexuality is not a Desease
Comunicato stampa Arcigay Franco Grillini a UCOII, inaccettabili dichiarazioni su Pegah Emambakhsh, l’omosessualità non è una malattia : Sono del tutto inaccettabili le dichiarazioni di Noureddine Chemmaoui, responsabile del dipartimento di affari sociali e diritti umani dell’UCOII (l’Unione delle comunità islamiche in Italia), a proposito di Pegah, la lesbica italiana che rischia di dover essere lapidata nel caso che il governo inglese decida di rimpatriarla.
Ci pare spaventosa, per una responsabile diritti umani, l’insistenza con la quale parla di lesbismo come peccato al quale l’Italia potrebbe offrire una possibile redenzione. Nel caso specifico, poi, non è giustificabile che si rivendichi l’applicazione delle leggi del paese d’origine, come fa la Chemmaoui: “E’ giusto che una persona sia giudicata in base alle leggi del suo paese, dove molto dipende anche dal giudice”. In Iran, lo ricordiamo, per coloro che la rappresentante definisce “malati” e “peccatori” c’è la pena di morte. Le parole insultanti di Noureddine Chemmaoui, in rappresentanza del fanatismo islamico, sono offensive e vanno rispedite al mittente a cui ricordiamo, en passant, che l’omosessualità non è una malattia.
Bizzarro è infine che l’Ucoii riconosca l’esistenza di omosessuali nel mondo islamico ma che immagini che possano “anche non dirlo”. Il coming out è il primo passo per una vita serena, per un omosessuale, e in molti paesi islamici i gay non escono allo scoperto per tutelarsi la vita. E’ penosa una società che costringe al silenzio, alla doppia vita e alla clandestinità il diverso. Le dichiarazioni dimostrano che l’Ucoii è una organizzazione integralista, che non rappresenta il moderatismo islamico, e che non è meritevole della convenzione con lo Stato. On. Franco Grillini
The above message refers to the Iranian lesbian, Pegah Emambakhsh, who is resisting deportation in London.
Here is her recent message:
Message from Pegah Emambakhsh, Sep 8, 2007
A message from Pegah Emambakhsh to all the groups and people who are helping her.
Thanks to a wonderful person, an Iranian woman who lives in Italy and who has been working for many years in the field of human rights, a friend we are proud to have among the members of the EveryOne Group, we are in almost daily contact with Pegah who is imprisoned in Yarl’s Wood prison. Today, September 8th, 2007, Pegah has sent through this mutual friend a message for all the groups, activists, politicians and everyday people who are trying to solve her case.
”Dear friends, as you well know, I am having a difficult time right now, with no assurances for the future and with a lot of pain in my soul. I cannot deny that I am still very frightened, and the separation from my beloved children hurts so much that at times it seems unbearable. You don’t know how much of a comfort it is to me to know that you are out there. You don’t even know me, yet you are working for my cause, sticking your necks out and fighting for me, you write to me and send me wonderful flowers. I wasn’t expecting anything like this. Even many of the Iranians I was in contact with here in the United Kingdom abandoned me when they found out the reason I had applied for asylum. I haven’t heard from them since, they don’t want anything to do with me. I never imagined there were groups like you around. I hope the future offers me the opportunity to meet each and every person who has shown me so much friendship. I am feeling much calmer, I am happy to have all this protection, all this love that instils in me new energy and a desire to go on living. My dear friends, I am taking good care of the flowers you sent me. I am so proud of them! They have aroused a bit of jealousy in the other women here at Yarl’s Wood. I read the letters and postcards you have sent me over and over again. I have had a lot of time to think about what is happening to me and, in spite of not feeling ready to speak in public yet, once I get out of here I want to do something for humanity. Many thanks to you all.
24 October 2007
Italy: ‘Gay’ baby ad campaign triggers row
Posters of a rosy, puffy cheeked newborn baby have provoked controversy in Italy because the infant is shown wearing a wristband name-tag with the word "homosexual" written on it.
The photograph of the baby is part of a anti-discrimination campaign launched by Tuscany’s regional government and is accompanied by the slogan: "Sexual orientation is not a choice."
"Homosexuality is not a vice and hence should not be condemned nor marginalised, or worse still persecuted," the Tuscany region’s civil rights councillor Agostino Fragai told Milan-daily Corriere della Sera in a interview published. Thousands of copies of the poster have been printed, and will go up on city walls and public offices around Tuscany with the sponsorship of Italy’s centre-left government’s Equal Opportunities Ministry. But while Italy’s main gay rights group Arcigay said the campaign proved "Tuscany is at the forefront, and the rest of Italy should follow it," conservative politicians have condemned it.
"Exploiting newborns to suggest that homosexual tendencies are innate is a misleading and shameful act," said Lucio Volonte a leading parliamentarian for the Union of Christian Democrats. Some gay groups are also dismayed with the campaign. Gianni Vattimo, an Italian philosopher, gay rights activist and European Parliament member described the campaign "excessive". The slogan "is too biology-centric. Of course for a homosexual it is natural to be gay, but I’m not too sure it is determined by genetics", Vattimo said.
28th November 2007
Italian city establishes same-sex register
by PinkNews.co.uk staff writer
Ancona, a city on Italy’s Adriatic coast, opened a registry for same-sex couples yesterday. Adults who "emotional ties and who have been living at least one year together" may register, according to news agency ANSA. Earlier this year Padua city council outraged the Vatican by allowing gay and lesbian couples to register their ‘family.’
Romano Prodi came to power in April promising civil partnership style laws for the gay community as well as heterosexual cohabiting couples, but a bill has stalled in the Italian parliament. A poll in February found that 67% of practising Catholics in Italy support protections for heterosexual co-habitees, a number which falls to 35% who think gay and lesbians should get legal protection. Overall, 80% of Italians are in favour.