Internet outing of 'gay' politicians shocks Italy

AFP , Friday 23 Sep 2011

Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi attends a debate at the lower house of parliament in Rome 23 Sep 2011 (Photo:Reuters)

The Internet naming of 10 Italian politicians as homosexual caused a furore Friday, with the country's main gay rights group calling it a "wretched rag-bag of gossip" that did more harm than good.

The list including right-wing ministers and members of parliament belonging to Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's party was published Friday on a US-based weblog.

The blog's authors said the aim was "to bring a bit of justice into a country where people have no way of defending themselves against daily insults and attacks from hypocritical politicians."

"We decided to start with these 10 names to show clearly how hypocrisy and discrimination rule in the Italian parliament."

The blog said the first target was parties which voted against a law condemning homophobia, which was thrown out for the second time in July.

The "outing" was backed by Aurelio Mancuso, head of the Equality Italia association, who said those named should not feel insulted or make an issue of it because being called gay is not an insult.

But Paolo Patane, head of Arcigay, the country's main gay rights defence group, said the list contained no proof of the homosexuality or homophobia of those named.

Catholic Italy is one of the few European states that lacks specific legislation against homophobic violence, which has increased in recent years, and has no provision for gay civil unions.

Berlusconi himself brags of his heterosexual performance and last year dismissed a sex scandal involving him, saying: "It's better to be passionate about beautiful women than to be gay."

Activists quickly came up with a slogan printed on placards and T-shirts reading: "It's better to be gay than to be Berlusconi."

In another speech in 2007, Berlusconi boasted there were no gays in his party. "Don't be afraid -- the gays are all on the other side," he said.

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