Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Temporary gay street opens in Rome

Temporary gay street opens in Rome
Copyright by The Assocuated Press
August 21, 2007

ROME, ITALY (AP) - Rome marked the opening of its first “Gay Street” with flags, banners and protests amid a row over a homosexual couple who claimed they were detained by police for kissing near the Colosseum.

Campaigners welcomed a 325-yard zone in the center of the city - filled with shops and bars - as an area where gays can “feel at ease,” after days of heated debate in predominantly Roman Catholic Italy over the kissing incident.

The two men were detained briefly for what the police said were lewd acts in public - a crime that can carry a sentence of up to two years in jail.

“This will be an area where people can feel at ease, and it is also meant to be a bridge between the citizens and the homosexual community,” activist Fabrizio Marrazzo, the Rome leader of Italy’s Arcigay gay rights movement, said.

Police said the two were not just kissing and would have behaved the same way if it had been a heterosexual couple.

Right-wingers have protested the City Hall’s decision to close the area to traffic for three nights a week through Sept. 8.

“Nobody wants to condemn those who practice a different sexuality, but to dedicate a street only to gays and lesbians I think it’s a sort of useless and marginalizing project,” right wing politician Piergiorgio Benvenuti was quoted as saying by the daily Il Giornale.

Gay rights came into the spotlight in Italy when the government recently proposed a bill aimed at granting legal rights to unmarried and same-sex couples.

The legislation sparked controversy and angered the Vatican, which under Pope Benedict XVI has been conducting a fierce campaign to protect traditional marriage between a man and a woman. The bill requires parliamentary approval.


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