Yesterday, at Largo di Torre Argentina (which is right outside our studio building), three friends and I found that the streets were blocked off and surrounded by the police. There was also a helicopter flying above and traffic was stopped from all directions. Lots of young people were rallying in the street with signs and flags and costumes. At first it seemed most like a political rally.
I jumped into the crowd and spoke to some people, most of whom were very willing to speak to me in English even though I had a big camera and was clearly a tourist. Coming from San Francisco where gay rights activism is as much a life-style (shared by queers and straight-allies alike) as it is a political movement, joining into this rally felt like coming home.
An older woman (Truchilla? It was too loud to catch her name without asking for it over and over again) who I spoke to, who is gay and Roman, told me that many minority groups (not just the LGBTQ community but also Communists, etc.) were protesting the influence that the Vatican has on political parties. According to her, even the leftist parties are forced to consistently make compromises in their policies because of the heavy influence (financial and moral) of the Church on Roman and Italian politics.
The rally’s slogan was “Facciamo Breccia”; their website is here: http://www.facciamobreccia.org/.
To be clear, I don’t live here and I don’t vote here, so their cause is not strictly mine. However, as the American Embassy representative reminded us the day before, we reside here under Italian law. At the time, the embassy was uh, reminding us not to pee on cop cars or get drugged at clubs like other American tourists (really?!). However, the idea that while living here we ARE Romans makes me sympathetic to the discrimination and legal battles that the Roman GLBT community is fighting … battles not at all unlike our own in the US.
While same-sex sexual activity is legal in Italy (which in the United States was only overruled in the Texas sodomy case Lawrence vs. Texas in 2003), LGBTQ people in Italy still find that they are not allowed the same rights and legal-protections as straight couples. Berlusconi is notably against the advancement of the gay rights agenda. Similarly, unlike many states in the US which recognize civil unions, no such institution comparable to marriage exists for queers in Italy. (See: http://www.pinknews.co.uk/news/articles/2005-7385.html/)
Nonetheless, I am also hugely sympathetic to the Vatican: that while it is imposing its view that homosexuality is a sin and a choice unto the state, it is doing its best to save souls and preserve the good in people in accordance to what they believe is right. The line separating church and state unfortunately is much more fuzzy here in Rome than in the United States (where it is fuzzy still) where the population is majority Roman Catholic and the church historically has always had one foot in state power.
While, according to the protesters, the political parties find themselves indebted to Vatican influence and/or money, so does the Church find itself tied to political agendas and biases. While more liberal sects of Christianity (Methodists, Unitarians, etc.) have accepted the LGBTQ community into their folds, perhaps if the Vatican was less tied to political interests (who sometimes, of course, oppose gay marriage and rights for more reasons than just religion alone) there would be more opportunity to at least consider re-evaluating their stance on homosexuality. Regardless of whether the Church’s stance on homosexuality is “right” or not — to me, the Vatican loses some agency in issues regarding the heart and soul when they are so closely tied to the state — whose interests are, philosophically and historically, in the social contract.
Besides, in keeping with Valentine’s Day, a Jan. 2010 poll shows that 51% of Italians believe that homosexual love should be regarded to heterosexual love. Spread the love, right?