ROME - Two leftists in Italy's ruling coalition on Wednesday outraged fellow
lawmakers by placing four dolls representing homosexual couples near the baby
Jesus in the official nativity scene in parliament.
In this image made available by Italy's Radical Party
website, two dolls with signs reading: 'Also in Italy gay marriages like
in Zapatero's Spain' which were reportedly placed near the traditional
nativity scene at the Italian parliament's Lower Chamber by two Radical
party deputies, in Rome, Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2006. [AP]
The two parliamentarians from the small "Rose in the Fist" party said their
gesture was to promote the legalization of gay marriage and granting legal
recognition to unmarried couples.
Bruno Mellano and Donatella Poretti placed the Barbie and Ken-type dolls in
the parliamentary nativity scene, each couple lying down embraced among the
shepherds witnessing the birth of Jesus.
Each of the two doll couples, which parliamentary ushers removed after a few
minutes, wore miniature placards with slogans in favor of gay rights.
"This is a vulgar and unacceptable double attack against both a (national)
institution as well as a religious symbol," a group of women parliamentarians of
the opposition conservative Forza Italia party said in a statement.
Luca Volonte, a member of the small centrist opposition Union of Christian
Democrats, called the gesture a "pure attack against the religion practiced by
the majority of Italians."
Italy is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic and nativity scenes, featuring figures
of the baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, shepherds, animals and three kings bearing
gifts, are put but in many homes, squares and shops.
Some members of the opposition demanded the lawmakers be censured by the
speaker of the lower house of parliament.
But even the Italian Communist Party, which supports gay rights and is also
in the ruling coalition of Prime Minister Romano Prodi, distanced itself from
One communist parliamentarian called it "a grave political error" that would
not help homosexuals.
The two leftist politicians carried out their gesture just before Pope
Benedict, speaking to pilgrims and tourists at the Vatican, said Christmas
creches were part of Christian culture that had to be defended.
In recent weeks, several state schools have decided not to erect the nativity
scene. Some shops decided not to sell them, saying they were not popular or did
not fit their image.
But even Education Minister Giuseppe Fioroni has criticized such schools,
saying they had gone too far in banning nativity scenes which could instead be
used as tools for inter-religious dialogue.