The mayor of Venice has said that no gay pride parades will take place in the city while he is in charge.
Luigi Brugnaro told Italian daily La Repubblica “there will be no gay pride in my Venice”, describing the event as “a farce” and “the ultimate in kitsch”.
Veneto, the region of Italy includes Venice, holds a gay pride in different cities each year, with Venice scheduled to host it in 2016, but Brugnaro told the reporter: “Let them go and do it in Milan or in front of their own homes.”
His declaration has been condemned by gay rights groups, with Flavio Romani from the Arcigay group saying: “We will be back next year and we invite the mayor to march at the head of the parade with us. That way he will see what a Gay Pride really is.”
Brugnaro, an independent politician who was elected on a centre-right platform earlier this year, had already angered gay rights groups after withdrawing books depicting same-sex relationships from nurseries and primary schools in the city.
The move led Elton John to brand him “boorishly bigoted”, while Fabrizio Marrazzo, a spokesman for Gay Centre, accused him of trying to make Venice “off limits” for gay people.
Brugnaro responded by calling Elton John “arrogant”, adding: “A family with two women and a child is unnatural.”
His comments come as Italy debates legally recognising same-sex unions. The country is currently the only major European nation to give no recognition at all for gay couples, but various towns and have decided the unilaterally perform same-sex marriages.
In June, the European Court of Human Rights told Italy it must introduce state recognition of same-sex unions, and legislation to create civil unions is currently going through parliament. It is not known whether it will pass, however, as opposition parties are likely to block it in the Senate.