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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 2, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 44
Gay men lead the charge against Italy's rightist government
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Gay men lead the charge against Italy's rightist government

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Two Gay ex-Communist politicians are leading the opposition to Italy's right-wing government.

Nichi Vendola, currently governor of Apulia province, is considered one of the favorites to become prime minister of Italy in next year's national elections. Rosario Crocetta stunned political insiders by becoming the first openly Gay governor of Sicily on October 29.

Vendola first made a name for himself as a writer for the Communist Party newspaper L'Unita (Unity). When the party collapsed in 1991 following the breakup of the Soviet Union, Vendola joined the Communist Refoundation Party.

In 1992 he was elected to Italy's parliament, where he became a leading member of the Anti-Mafia Commission. In 2005 he was elected the first openly Gay governor of Apulia, and the first Communist in that position. He was reelected in 2009.

Vendola soon became the political nemesis of then-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. He was widely believed to be the target of Berlusconi's infamous quip, 'I like pretty girls. That's better than liking Gay boys.'

COMMUNISTS 'HOMOPHOBIC'
In 2009, Vendola formed a new political party, now called the Left Ecology Freedom Party, and began advocating for a complete realignment of Italian politics.

'We are in the delivery room,' Vendola said last year. 'I see in the belly of Italy the alternative creature ready to be born. And as an obstetrician, I want to deliver it.'

Although he jokes that he is 'beloved' by Italian voters, Vendola is also widely mocked for his meandering, metaphorical, and often inscrutable speaking style. His more obtuse remarks are documented in the conservative Il Foglio newspaper, in a column whose title translates roughly to 'Nichi, what the hell are you talking about?'

Crocetta, by contrast, is notably direct and straightforward. During the 1980s, he was a member of the Italian Communist Party, but quit, he said, because 'the Communists were homophobic.' Like Vendola, he then joined the Communist Refoundation Party.

Also like Vendola, he won a reputation as an anti-Mafia crusader, and survived assassination attempts in 2003, 2008, and 2010.

DOWNPLAYS SEXUALITY
In 2003, Crocetta tried to join the center-left Democratic Party (Partito Democratico) but that party was reluctant to have him because of his sexual orientation, he charged. The party accepted him in 2008, and he represented it in elections for the European Parliament the next year.

Berlusconi is now out of power and has been sentenced to four years in prison for tax fraud. He faces additional charges of hiring an under-age prostitute. But his right-wing party is still in power nationally and in many provinces.

Sicily, long considered a conservative area, was one of the provinces under the control of Berlusconi's party until Crocetta swept to power, winning more than 30% of the vote in a nine-candidate election.

Crocetta may not be able to do much for LGBT rights when he takes office, however. He won the election in coalition with the Union of Christian Democrats, a centrist party very close to the Catholic Church.

During the electoral campaign, Crocetta went out of his way to downplay his sexual orientation.

'In case of victory, I will say goodbye to sex and sexuality. I'll be married only to Sicily and to Sicilians,' he joked.

In a more serious vein, he stated, 'Chastity is the best way of life for a politician. When you are dealing with such a responsibility, you have to be quiet and considerate.'

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