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June 03, 2000 09:58am
Italy's Ag. Minister Comes Out
Source: News Wire

Italy's new Agriculture Minister Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio publicly identified himself as bisexual in an interview with the newsweekly Panorama published June 2. He's believed to be the nation's first Cabinet minister ever to openly identify himself other than as a heterosexual, and Panorama captioned his photo, "Courageous." Pecoraro Scanio, 41, a Salerno attorney and Green Party member, was named to the cabinet in May by Prime Minister Giuliano Amato. Pecoraro Scanio's announcement comes after months of fiery public debate in which the Vatican and right-wing political parties have tried to block the long-planned July 1 - 9 celebration of World Pride 2000 in Rome, arguing it is offensive in the Holy City during the Church's Jubilee Year.

Panorama's interviewer asked Pecoraro Scanio directly if he is gay, and he responded, "I'm against choosing just homosexuality or heterosexuality in a rigid, old-fashioned style. Me, I choose absolute sexual liberty. ... I think a one-way choice is self-restrictive. [I am] neither heterosexual nor homosexual." But when asked if he felt he should be more of an activist for gay and lesbian equality, he said he is busy campaigning against genetically modified food, and noted that, "Sexuality is important, but it isn't the central thing in my life."

Yet Pecoraro Scanio maintains that World Pride should be allowed to proceed as planned. He said, "I don't see where the offense to religion is. The Church, instead, is trying to portray Gay Pride as some sort of sex show." Pecoraro Scanio's boss Amato has been much less supportive of World Pride, managing to sound so regretful in telling the parliament that Italy's gays and lesbians are guaranteed freedom of speech and assembly under the national constitution, that right wing parties applauded him.

The newspaper La Repubblica said of Pecoraro Scanio's coming-out, "He broke a taboo." Alessandra Mussolini, granddaughter of the late fascist dictator Benito Mussolini and his political heir as a Member of Parliament for the National Alliance party, was quoted by Reuters as commenting, "Sexuality should remain a private matter."

Very few public figures in Italy have come out to date. One who has, Communist politician Niki Vendola, has argued strongly for World Pride to continue as planned and denounced the Vatican for its opposition.

Several other Cabinet members have vocally supported World Pride, most notably Equal Opportunity Minister Katia Bellillo, who has vowed to join the July 8 Pride March, declaring, "At stake here is the democratic and secular nature of the Republic of Italy."

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) held a demonstration outside the Consulate of Italy in San Francisco on June 1 "to protest against the rising power of the neo-fascist right in Italy" as exemplified by the treatment of World Pride. IGLHRC said that other protests were held on the same day at Italian consulates and embassies in Boston, Chicago, New York, and Washington, DC in the U.S.; in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town in South Africa; in Managua, Nicaragua; and in a number of cities in Spain. [Ed. note: PlanetOut News has not yet been able to obtain information on any of those actions.] World Pride organizers and their allies are planning a protest in Rome June 5. For more information on IGLHRC's international protest actions, see their website.

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