Gay activism took another step forward today in Italy, as gay rights groups in the country announced they would protest the arrest of two men who were kissing in front of the famous Colosseum in Rome. As the Associated Press notes in its story today, "Homosexuality has been gaining wider acceptance in this overwhelmingly Catholic country, especially in large urban centers. Recently, rights groups have been pressing Italian politicians to pass a proposed bill that would grant some legal rights to unmarried heterosexual and same-sex couples."
Arrested for Kissing
The arrest happened when Italian police saw the couple, Roberto and Michele, engaged in what they deemed a "lewd act" in front of the historic landmark. The men were detained for 40 minutes before being released; the act for which they were charged can carry up to 2 years in jail.
Vladimir Luxuria, a transgender member of the Communist party in parliament, said she would call on the government to explain the arrest. "It's worrying that a gesture of affection is considered a crime,'' told reporters. ``It's absurd that two young people who love each other should spend the night in a police station without having done anything obscene.''
The Mario Mieli Club announced it would also protest the arrest, with a kiss-in Sunday night in front of the Colosseum. (Where do we sign up?!)
(Ironically, news of the arrest arrived as an Italian court ruled it was no longer acceptable to deport LGBT immigrants to the country who may face persecution, based on their sexual orientation, in their home country.)
As the Pope continues to demonize same-sex couples, the increasing visibility of gays in Italy is a welcome sign. As someone with a Sicilian significant other, I know first-hand how tough it can be to come out, and be visible, in a Catholic culture. The fact that Roberto and Michele have found so many outspoken allies to stand with them is encouraging, and will hopefully send a much-needed signal to the Vatican that anti-gay prejudice is no longer acceptable, even among the Catholic flock.
After all, history doesn't have any stronger evidence of the force of gays called to battle, from ancient Greece to ancient Rome.