Italy’s ex-PM Silvio Berlusconi backs same-sex civil unions

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Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who strongly opposed gay rights while in office, has thrown his weight behind proposals for same-sex civil unions.

Mr Berlusconi, who leads the right-wing Forza Italia party, had an incredibly poor record on gay rights while in office, saying in March 2011 that his government would “never” grant adoption or marriage rights to gays.

He had also attracted ire previously while defending his adulterous private life, when he had said: “If I happen to look pretty girls in the face now and then, well then, it’s better to be a fan of pretty women than to be gay.”

Amid an attempt to make a mainstream political comeback, Mr Berlusconi has rapidly shifted his position on LGBT issues – making his first ever pro-gay statement in June when he said: “The fight for civil rights for homosexuals is a fight that in a truly modern and democratic country should be everyone’s responsibility.”

He has gone even further today – backing proposals to open up civil unions to same-sex couples but not marriage – known as ‘the German model’.

Speaking to La Stampa, Mr Berlusconi said the country needs to “adapt to a different reality”, adding of the law: “The German model is the right compromise.

“We came to the conclusion that the German law on civil unions represents a fair compromise between the deep respect for Christian values, which we value, and the traditional family.

“Those with public responsibilities cannot intervene when the demands of society change.”