‘A gay kiss? It’s disgusting. I am normal and I like women. A gay marriage? For God’s sake, no!’ said the Italian Member of Parliament Massimo Calearo (a former democrat and now an independent politician) last week.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens of the Mediterranean country are experiencing hard times. Italian politicians – with a few exceptions – have never been openly LGBT-friendly. But, recently, a new wave of homophobia has been running from north to south.
‘Sometimes I call them “culattoni” (queer) and I’m proud to be normal,’ said another member of parliament, Gabriele Cimadoro, in March. As part of the Italia dei Valori Party (Italy of Values), Cimadoro is supposed to be left-wing.
But, as Franco Grillini, former president of the LGBT movement Arcigay and now member of the regional parliament of Emilia-Romgna for Italia dei Valori, explains, Cimadoro was previously a Christian Democrat – hence his anti-gay stance.
Grillini told Gay Star News: ‘The Vatican is the real Italian cancer at the moment, they influence left-wing and right-wing parties. And our politicians are the most homophobic in Europe.
‘Italy now needs a law against discrimination. When I was in the national parliament, I worked for a bill like that. It was voted for in a commission, but never approved by the assembly.’
Anna Paola Concia, a lesbian member of parliament, reacted to Calearo’s and Cimadoro’s statements by asking the presidents of the two chambers to intervene. Nothing has been done.
But while officials stay silent, gay and trans Italians are taking the lead in fighting for a better future.
A conference on gay marriage is to be held in Rome tomorrow (12 April). All the Italian LGBT associations will be there. And plans for the national Bologna Pride 2012 (9 June) have been unveiled today.
Bologna Pride 2012 organizer Emiliano Zaino told Gay Star News: ‘At the pride we’ll shout against the homophobia of our politicians. While Europe is giving LGBT people rights and voice, Italy is still a medieval country, and we can only rely on the judges’ decisions [in legal challenges on LGBT rights issues].’
Zaino agrees with Grillini, asking for a law against discrimination: ‘It is absolutely necessary. And now Italy has a bad reputation in Europe.’
Homophobic statements, in Italy come both from the right and from the left.
‘We can’t beat homophobia at the moment,’ Enrico Oliari, president of the LGBT right-wing association GayLib, told Gay Star News.
‘Catholicism is the real problem: but while right-wing politicians are openly homophobic, the left-wing ones simply wear a mask of kindness and politeness. They are homophobic as well.’
According to Oliari, however, Italy does not need a law against discrimination. ‘I don’t think that we need new rules,’ he added, ‘I only think that Italy has to give LGBT citizens rights. This has been the case in countries like Holland or the United Kingdom. More than new laws, new rights changed the culture of these countries.’
In fact, the organizers of Bologna Pride 2012 are fighting for LGBT rights. At least 250,000 people will march in the northern Italian city in June. Their demands: gay marriage, anti-discrimination laws and civil rights.
The new wave of statements against LGBT people, according to commentators, is closely related to the Catholic Church’s stance on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens.
For some senior Catholics, gay people are something to be ignored – Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini recently agreed with associations fighting for rights for unmarried couples, but he did not comment about same-sex partners.
More worryingly, a new Facebook page appeared in Italy last week owned by the Comunità di Sant’Efremo, a Catholic movement, which proposes a ‘cure’ against homosexuality and to fight against ‘this addiction’.
But it’s not all about religion. Imma Battaglia, president of the association Dì Gay Project and organizer of the historic World Pride in Rome in 2000, told Gay Star News: ‘The problem, now, is a political one. We need an electoral reform, our members of parliament don’t represent anyone and this is the result of our wrong system.’
‘Every time that our politicians are in trouble, they speak against LGBT people,’ she added, ‘demonstrating their ignorance.
‘And this is also the result after years and years of Berlusconi [former Italian prime minister]. Every time you have to hide the country’s real problems you can talk about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. And you can say everything, nobody will ever protest against your discriminatory statements.’