Rome (AFP) – Thousands of people took to the streets of Rome on Saturday to celebrate Gay Pride just days after Italy’s new families minister caused a storm by saying that homosexual families do not legally exist.
The annual march in the Italian capital comes at a tense time in the country after a coalition government took power including the far-right, nationalist League party, which has a long history of anti-gay rhetoric.
Lorenzo Fontana, 38, was sworn in as Minister for Families and the Disabled on June 1 alongside other members of government formed by the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and the League.
In an interview with major daily Corriere Della Sera the next day, Fontana responded to a question about how his ministry would deal with families with homosexual parents, referred to in Italy as “rainbow families”.
“Rainbow families exist, do they?” he replied, before qualifying his statement by saying that Italian law does not recognise such families.
Legislation allowing same-sex civil unions came into force in Italy in June 2016, but a provision that would have granted non-biological parents some parental rights was removed in order to get the law passed.
Italian law only allows heterosexual couples access to fertility treatments. However a Turin city council in April registered the birth of the son of a lesbian couple, who was conceived via IVF in Denmark.
Last month the city also registered the birth of another child of a same-sex couple.
Fontana is a League politician and comes from the right of the party.
In 2016 he spoke at a meeting of a pro-life association about how gay marriage, gender theory and “mass immigration” were all working together to “cancel out our community and our traditions”.
He is also involved in a controversy over his dealings with Monica Cirinna, a senator with the centre-left Democratic Party and author of the bill that legalised civil unions for same-sex couples in Italy in 2016.
Shortly after being pictured shaking the hand of Cirinna, Fontana blocked her on Twitter despite having never interacted with Cirinna on the platform.
“I’m really shocked because I’d never written to him or cited his account on Twitter,” Cirinna said in an interview with left-leaning daily La Repubblica.
“I hope that the decision to block me was the unhappy act of a social media editor.”