Italy: New equalities minister removed from post after saying that gays ‘ghettoise’ themselves

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Less than 24 hours after being sworn in as a member of Italy’s new coalition government, a junior equalities minister has been removed from her post for saying that gay people invite discrimination by “ghettoising” themselves.

Michaela Biancofiore, was relocated to a new position after gay rights groups protested on Friday after Biancofiore, a parliamentarian from former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-right People of Freedom Party, was appointed to the equalities ministry as an undersecretary.

The head of gay rights advocacy group Gaynet, said that she was “known for her statements against the rights of homosexual couples,” and went on to question the “logic” of appointing her to “work for civil rights, including those of homosexuals”.

On Saturday, she responded to the criticism, speaking to Italian Newspapers, by saying: “For once, I would like to see gay associations, instead of ghettoising themselves… say something to condemn the recent spate of killings of women [in Italy]. All they do is defend their own interests”.

Her comments on Saturday were criticised for being “homophobic”, which she denied. She also responded to critics by saying: “I am not a homophobe. As a true liberal, I hate all kinds of discrimination,” reported La Repubblica.

She had previously been criticised for using the term “unfortunate” to describe different sexual orientations, which she later defended as a turn of phrase.

Prime Minister Enrico Letta, who was reportedly upset by the debacle, released a statement saying that Biancofiore would no longer serve the Equal Opportunities, Sport and Youth Policies ministry, and instead would be appointed to Public Administration and Simplification.

Letta had previously appealed to members of his government on Friday to call for “sobriety” in public comments, and asked the fragile coalition to work as a team.

As well as the comments on Saturday, Biancofiore has also said she does not support equal marriage, but did go so far as to say that she supported civil unions.

The new Italian coalition government is made up of Letta’s Democratic Party, Berlusconi’s People of Freedom Party and centrists led by former prime minister Mario Monti. It has been noted that the alliance is uneasy given that old political enemies now must work together.

Former Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti said in January that he opposes same-sex marriage and adoption rights for gay people.

Berlusconi claimed in December that his opponents had accused him of everything “except being gay and stealing money from Italians.”Prior to that, in March 2011, Mr Berlusconi declared that gay couples in Italy would never be allowed to marry or have adoption rights.