The city of Bologna, northern Italy, is in the center of a struggle between the Church and the rights of its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens.
The next national Italian gay pride will be held in this medieval city, between Florence and Venice, on 9 June. But the Catholic hierarchy is trying to make the gay activists change the starting point of the march.
Porta Saragozza, an old building, is the center of the dispute. For 20 years it has been the home of the Bologna’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, thanks to the municipality, who gave them the little medieval palace.
But the building has also been, for centuries, a stop on the annual procession celebrating the Madonna di San Luca, the Holy Mary of San Luca, patron saint of Bologna.
Winds have changed in Bologna and sometimes history plays ironically. And now Porta Saragozza is home of the museum of the Madonna di San Luca.
The LGBT activists want to start their march from Porta Saragozza and to end it in Piazza Maggiore, Bologna’s main square, home of another important church – San Petronio, one of the symbols of the city.
As a result the Church and Bologna’s right-wing politicians are angry. And even some left-wing politicians want the pride’s route changed.
Maria Cristina Marri, Bologna’s leader of the Christian party UDC, said: ‘It is only a provocation. I ask the mayor to change his ideas.’ And many priests followed her with spirited speeches.
Virginio Merola, Bologna’s mayor, replied: ‘The pride is a great occasion for this city. Bologna has got the opportunity of being plural and democratic.’
Emiliano Zaino, president of ArciGay Il Cassero and organizer of the march, told Gay Star News: ‘The Church’s position made us indignant. Their arguments don’t have any value. We don’t want to annoy the Catholic world but Porta Saragozza is not a sacred place. And their statements show us that they want to delete our history.’
Speaking from the Town Hall, Matteo Lepore, coordinator of the mayor’s cabinet, told Gay Star News: ‘Porta Saragozza has been an LGBT symbol for the last 30 years. Nobody can delete their history.
‘The LGBT world is a precious part of Bologna. Most of Bologna’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens are Catholic. So, they are not going to offend the Church.
‘Bologna is the city of the Madonna di San Luca but is also the city of the Italian LGBT movement. This is our treasure and we don’t want to lose it.’
But Bologna’s left is still divided. Some democrat councillors think the pride is a provocation and would like to change its route.
But Sergio Lo Giudice, leader of the democrats in the city assembly and former national president of LGBT association ArciGay, told Gay Star News: ‘There are different opinions. But this is democracy.’
From April Bologna will be the home of the national Italian gay pride incorporating sports, theatre, concerts, cinema, book events, conferences and meetings, all culminating in the march on 9 June.
This is the 30th anniversary for Bologna’s gay movement, dating from when the municipality gave them the old building of Porta Saragozza which they used for 20 years before moving to a bigger historic building, La Salara.
Susanna Camusso, leader of the main Italian union CGIL, and Don Luigi Ciotti, a Catholic priest close to LGBT people, will march in June and will speak from the stage.
Bologna Pride’s organizer Emiliano Zaino has also agreed with shops and businesses to promote the event among tourists and visitors.
The conferences and meetings during the event will look at issues as diverse as gay families, rights, HIV and AIDS, sports, same-sex marriage equality, the economic crisis of the last years.
After the march, there will be a final party in Bologna’s Parco Nord on the night of 9 June. Visit the Bologna Pride's site for more details (in Italian).