Friday, June 10, 2011, by AFP
Europe’s main gay pride festival comes to Rome tomorrow with organisers hoping Lady Gaga’s presence will help amplify their message of defiance against the Vatican and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
The US singer is to address what organisers say will be over one million participants with a message of support for gay rights in Italy, which lacks legislation against homophobic attacks and does not allow gay civil unions.
“This is the most backward government Italy has had since World War II,” said Paolo Patane, director of Arcigay, an activist group founded in the 1980s that is helping to organise the EuroPride parade in the Italian capital.
“It’s a government in which the Prime Minister goes with underage girls but then says that Parliament will never approve legislation that contradicts the concept of the family promoted by the Vatican,” he said.
Mr Patane pointed out that the mass gathering in Rome also comes just days after Mr Berlusconi suffered a major defeat in local elections and said he hoped it would help “push out this backward government”.
The EuroPride parade will make its way through the city centre and end with a concert and rally in the Circus Maximus, an ancient Roman arena.
The police are expecting around 500,000 people to take part.
Lady Gaga, who has Italian-American roots and has long lobbied for gay rights in the United States, is expected to sing her hit single Born This Way.
The run-up to tomorrow’s event has been marred by some small anti-gay protests around a fair set up by organisers near Rome train station.
Vladimir Luxuria, the organiser of Italy’s first gay pride festival in 1994 and a former member of Italy’s Parliament, said homophobia is on the rise.
“This Parliament is homophobic. The fish stinks from the head and we have a Prime Minister who is a gay-basher,” said Luxuria, a transsexual who has just published a novel linking homophobia in World War II to the present day.
Mr Berlusconi has long been notorious for his off-colour quips and last year dismissed a sex scandal involving him with a homophobic comment 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.”
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