Gay Rights Activists in Italy Hope for a New Coalition
Italian gay rights activists hope for a legal revolution after the introduction of the country's new coalition government.
"There's a problem of political will on the right, but statistics show ordinary Italians feel gay people are discriminated against, and our hope for change lies with the new parliament," said Aurelio Mancuso, head of Equality Italia.
Elections in February brought a significant number of young people and women representatives to parliament, particularly in the centre, left and protest Five Star Movement, and LGBT organisations said they were hopeful the fresh faces would serve as a catalyst.
"For the first time in a very long time, we have a lay parliament with a significant number of young people and women. With their help we could finally see a legal revolution," Mancuso said.
Rights campaigners have blamed the influence of the Catholic Church for hampering legislation.
Deputies from the left and centre on Thursday signed a bill calling for an amendment to Italy's hate crimes law to include homophobic offences in a bid to tackle gay discrimination.
As it stands, Italian law only recognises racial or religious discrimination.
Gianfranco Goretti, vice president of the Arcobaleno Families association, urged the government to legalise gay marriage and "acknowledge the legal rights of gay couples to care for their children."
Italy does not recognise gay and lesbian marriage or same-sex civil unions.
A new rule approved this month by the lower chamber of parliament which extends lawmakers' health benefits to their gay partners sparked an outcry, with critics accusing politicians of giving themselves rights which are not available to the wider LGBT community.
In a separate case, a junior equal opportunities minister was forced to resign this month, the day after being sworn in, after accusing homosexuals of inviting discrimination by "ghettoising" themselves.
"Cases of physical or verbal abuse against gays, lesbians or transsexuals are on the rise. The law needs to recognise us, at the moment we feel transparent," said rights campaigner Vladimir Luxuria.
Luxuria is behind an event next month on the Isole Tremiti on Italy's Adriatic coast which will commemorate the years the outcrop was used for the internment of homosexual prisoners during dictator Benito Mussolini's Fascist regime.
"The roots of hate run deep, and it is no coincidence that those who were persecuted under Mussolini are still being persecuted today," said Giusy D'Alconzo from Amnesty International.