Rosario Crocetta, who has survived three mafia plots to assassinate him, is the first gay governor of Sicily which has “traditionally been Italy’s most homophobic region.” But gay rights activists are doubtful that he will champion causes such as marriage equality. Described as a “devoted Catholic” who headed back to his hometown of Gela for prayers after winning the election, he has so far steered clear of advocating for gay rights.
Crocetta has been quoted as saying that he would refrain from sex should he win the election, thereby reinforcing the “the idea that being gay and having sex is unacceptable,” as Paola Bonesu, a political communication consultant and co-founder of Pane & Politica tells the Guardian. “If I win, I will marry Sicily and Sicilian people,” Crocetta has said.
Crocetta’s victory marks the advance of the center-left in Italy, with the right-wing People of Freedom party of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi in retreat. He is the first left-wing governor of Sicily since 1947 and is backed by a coalition of Italy’s center-left Democratic Party and the centrist Union of Christian and Centre Democrats party. Berlusconi’s candidate was in second place, followed by one from the Five Star Movement of comedian Beppe Grillo.
Crocetta Known For Fighting the Mafia
As the mayor of Gela, Crocetta has been mostly known for taking a stance against the mafia, convincing local businesses not to pay them protection money. He even attributes his coming out as the reason for his gaining “a sense of liberation that allowed him to understand how suffocated Sicily had become under the mafia’s yoke,” says the Guardian.
Crocetta’s sexuality has been a frequently noted topic that has been wielded against him. On a wire tapped call, mafia boss who hired a Lithuanian assassin to kill Crocetta in 2003 referred to him as a “queer communist.” Crocetta himself has said that more than few members for the mafia are themselves gay: “The idea that the mafia is all church, home and shotguns makes me laugh,” he has said. Antonio Ingroia, a magistrate in the city of Palermo, supports Crocetta’s assertion, noting that homosexuality “remains a taboo since they are scared of being ejected from the mob.”
Will Crocetta Support Gay Rights?
But Chiara Albanese points out that he has shown no sign of wishing to change Italy’s “unique status” as the only Western country that does not recognize any sort of same-sex union; in this, Crocetta is certainly aligned with the Catholic Church’s anti-gay marriage stance.
Contradicting Crocetta’s claims that Italy’s south is more tolerant about homosexuality because in the south “There is a great respect for the individual, making it less homophobic than the north,” Albanese cites statistics from Istat, Italy’s national institute of statistics:
In 2011, only 16% of a population sample based in southern Italy defined homosexual relationships as acceptable, against a national average of 27%, 38% in central regions and 30% in northern Italy.
Young gay people who come out in southern Italy are more likely to be the victim of acts of aggression (more directed at men than women) or of discrimination in the workplace and are more likely to take their own lives.
In addition, the Union of Christian and Centre Democrats has close ties to the Catholic Church and is therefore likely to squash any gay rights initiatives in the region. Under Italian laws governors also lack numerous powers, Albanese notes.
Crocetta was elected to be Gela’s mayor in 2003 and has since simply not emphasized his sexual orientation in public. In contrast, Italy’s only other openly gay governor, Nichi Vendola, who has led the southern region of Apulia since 2005, has publicly said he wishes to marry his partner and adopt children with him.
Nonetheless, as Albanese writes, Crocetta’s victory would have seemed “unbelievable” but a few weeks ago. As The Economist asks, are Crocetta’s victory and also the support for the Five Stars Movement (on which Grillo reportedly spent only just €25,000 or $32,000) a sign that Italians, plagued by a recession-stalled economy, rising unemployment and continued reports of government corruption, are pushing for real change in economic policies and in Italian society?
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