Italy’s Possible Next Gay Prime Minister: The Homophobia Builds


The main opposition contender to replace Silvio Berlusconi as Prime Minister of Italy is coming under increasingly nasty attacks — because he is gay.

Nichi Vendola is the openly gay 51-year-old president of the poor region of Puglia in Italy’s ‘boot heel.’ And he is a phenomenon.

He’s learned from Barack Obama’s campaign — the Italian press has baptized him the “Italian Obama” — using an Internet network called “Nichi’s Factories” (fabbriche di Nichi) largely made up of people new to politics, especially young people and exiles from the traditional left. Nationwide polls show Vendola winning over either of the other expected candidates, Pierluigi Bersani, Secretary of the Democratic Party, and Berlusconi.

Two recent attacks give a taste of what will become a deluge of homophobia in Italy, possibly as soon as next May if elections are brought forward as many expect they will be.

One Catholic Bishop, Giacomo Babini, just told the website Pontifex:

“As a Catholic, I believe that homosexuality is a grave sin practiced and unnatural, certainly worse than that of going with the opposite sex. In light of the facts Vendola sins more than Berlusconi.”

Berlusconi’s ratings have hit rock-bottom after countless sex scandals, one including under-age prostitutes.

On the Berlusconi controlled media, a tirade of unprintable rude and homophobic insults from leading Berlusconi-supporting journalist Emilio Fede led Vendola to reply with:

“I’m gay, but I’m not a pig.”

Berlusconi himself is well known for comments such as this one from last year:

“It’s better to be passionate about beautiful women than to be gay.”

Rome blogger Judy Harris translates this to:

“You may like Vendola, but he’s gay and I’m a real man.”

Berlusconi, who has prevented every single bit of gay rights legislation, from anti-discrimination measures to civil unions, is a pro at using homophobia as a political weapon — even against the Catholic Church.

Doug Ireland reported last year that when a Catholic daily newspaper, Avvenire, began criticizing Berlusconi after the exposure of his flings with $3,000-a-night hookers and starlets three years ago, Il Giornale, the paper owned by Berlusconi’s brother, Paolo, published charges that Avvenire’s editor was a closeted homosexual who had harassed the wife of his gay lover. The allegations turned out to be pure invention, but by then the editor had resigned.

Vendola is a self-described gay Catholic communist. His election — and re-election last year — in conservative Puglia as regional president shocked Italy. He is the leader of a new national party, Sinistra Ecologia Libertà (SEL, or Left Ecology Liberty), and in Puglia has adopted a policy of “small is beautiful,” successfully encouraging the intensive development of small-scale agriculture and a network of small and medium-sized factories, particularly in textiles, clothing, footwear and food products.

He is, says Ireland, almost the direct opposite of the vulgar Berlusconi.

A charismatic speaker and published poet, he says things like:

“We must teach our youth the meaning of beauty!”

“Be realist, demand the impossible!”

Or he tells his audiences that:

“The word ‘left’ means home of rights, which means turning the lights on the corners of social pain, which is to speak of the invisible, of so many people bewildered and lost!”

Directly challenging homophobes on an election platform, he said:

Do you really believe that happiness is only heterosexual? Do you really think a gay cannot be happy? No, it is not, it cannot be that way. What makes you miserable are hypocrisy, secrecy, fear of being what you are. Declaring who you are may be painful, even bring exclusion, even bring violence, but I’ve never been afraid to be who I am. And if there’s a thought that gives me more anxiety than that, it is to imagine living a lie. This is misery! Just this.

His campaign will be built on the ‘fabbriche di Nichi’ phenomenon of grassroots organizing, which involves activists in practical projects such as generating environmental action and campaign ideas.

Says Vendola:

The factories, built by volunteers, are examples of participatory democracy and political reform. They’re not just simple electoral committees but a different sort of space, active and creative. Ideas, propositions, actions of all kind are born there and then distributed in every region, via Internet and by the grassroots actions and projects on the ground.

If Italy does, as expected, turf out Berlusconi, electing Vendola may, says Curzio Maltese, a columnist for La Repubblica, bring “a sense of liberation — the idea of having a declared homosexual as prime minister!”


Photo credit: ScorciDemocratici Torino2010


Mac R.
Mac R6 years ago

Steve R, you can always be counted on to say the stupidest, most racist and homophobic things, but I agree with Lilliethe that you have outdone yourself on this one! What a mental midget you are.

Dee Dee W: God's gonna slap you sillier than you already are for being so stupid. He told me today that He HATES you and loves his gay cfhildren. You cannot run nor hide from Him because He destroyed Sodom and Gamorrah (apparently the only place on earth He couldn't see, because he had to send Abraham there to scope it out for him and report back.)

Anyway, you had better repent and apologize to all the people you've insulted over your life, and maybe, just maybe, He will let you into Heaven. But, you need to really, really, really pray hard for forgiveness 'cause He told me you're in really deep doodoo with Him. Just thought I'd let you know, since I have a direct line to Him and I get all the latest dish.

Yvette S.
Past Member 6 years ago

“"'Left' La parola significa patria dei diritti, il che significa accendere le luci sugli angoli di dolore sociale, che è quello di parlare dell'invisibile, di tante persone disorientato e perso!"

(“The word ‘left’ means home of rights, which means turning the lights on the corners of social pain, which is to speak of the invisible, of so many people bewildered and lost!”)

Profondo, signore, appunto. ( Profound , Sir, precisely!!!!!!!!!! )

Philip A.
.6 years ago

This is an article that should be read twice. First, read it all right through so one gets a clear picture of the issue. Second, read it again, but block out the nonesense about the man's homosexuality, for then you have, in effect, an article only about his achievements to date and the policies he has implemented in Puglia. Those policies, so effective in his home district, could transform the country. In a sense, they are not capitalist, and that is why emphasis is put on his supposed communism. But in fact, considered carefully, they are the stuff of free enterprise, bete noire of monopolistic capitalism

The bishop who stated that Vendola's sexual acts (what does he imagine they are?) are a greater sin that Berlusconi's statutory rape needs his head examined. It is notable that male homophobes, and probably female ones, are always more obsessed with homosexuals and supposed sodomy that they are with the sexual proclivities of lesbians. I find that obsession very, very suspicious. I said about the head of the Christian Heritage Party here in Canada that if he started writing a column about his grannie's apple pie recipe, he'd wind up getting homosexuality into the picture somehow. Finally, the fact that Berlusconi hasn't been tossed out of office and jailed long ago is disgraceful. What with the financial crimes and the sexual ones he should be ripe for about 20 years in the dungeon.

Jane H.
Jane H6 years ago

he sounds wonderful---Italy would be lucky to have hime as their next PM!

Robert O.
Robert O6 years ago

I think it would be a refreshing change for Italy on many levels. For one they can get rid of the smug, womanizing, overgrown playboy they've got now and hopefully it will help open the door to more understanding and tolerance. Typically Europe tends to be more accepting of others than other continents, but within Europe Italy (and some other nations) have been having a spate of hate crimes and a huge underlying conservative, anti-gay movement, most of it being pushed by the Catholic based pro-family groups there.

Michael John N.
M,chael N6 years ago

The Bishop is stating his personal peverted and evil doctrine. There is not a scrap of evidence that Catholic teaching claims that homosexual acts are more sinful than extramarital heterosexual acts. He should be forced to show the proof of what he says as, being a bishop, people will assume that he is preaching authentic catholic doctrine. Of course, the catholic church should move with the rest of the world but it is stuck in a two millenia time warp.

Mark Alan Dellavecchia

FYI - Thursday, October 20, 2011 is International SPIRIT DAY - one of the minor holidays on the LGBT Calendar. It is asked that you wear a PURPLE SHIRT as a sign of LGBT support, and in memory of the LGBT Teens who have died because of their orientation.

stella bleu
stella bleu6 years ago

Forza Vendola! Berlusconi needs to be ousted - he's nothing but a disgusting sob who can't keep his dick in his pants.

Donna Pulous
Donna Pulous6 years ago

So sad people are still freaked out about someone's sexual preference.

Sue Griffiths
SUE Griffiths6 years ago

Bishop Giacomo Babini says homosexuality is a sin and a grave and unnatural practice. He's a fine one talking. Sort out your catholic church and your priests first, before condeming decent people, who just happen to be gay. The homosexual act might be unnatural to him, but it's natural to gay people. If it happens in nature, then it's natural, and why would God make homosexuals if it was wrong? Each and every one of us is of His making, and each and every one of us has something to contribute to this world. That's why it gets on my nerves when some people take a holier than thou attitude. They actually believe that they are better than gay people. There is no bigger sinner in Italy than Berlusconi. He's a national joke, (no, an international joke). How dare he try to sully Mr Vendola's good name. He that sleeps with 14 year old girls, and is dodgy when it comes to a myriad of things. What a bloody cheek. I wish Mr Vendola every success and all the very best.