Acts of homophobia are almost at the order of the day

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Interview of Luca Ragazzi and Gustav Hofer
 
Luca Ragazzi and Gustav Hofer constitute a couple, a couple that the Italian state refuses to recognize. Luca and Gustav are two journalists who are committed to fighting for their right not to be discriminated on grounds of their sexual orientation. Luca and Gustav are directors and protagonists of the movie ‘Suddenly last winter”, a documentary released in 2008, which illustrates the discussion around the draft law ‘DICO”, a bill presented to the parliament in 2007. It deals with the rights and duties of stable cohabiters, also of the same sex, and denounces the homophobic outburst that this draft law originated.
 
‘Suddenly last winter” finishes in 2008, when Silvio Berlusconi once again became Prime Minister, replacing Romano Prodi. This political change coincided with the closure of any discussions related to the draft law DICO. How did the situation change, if ever, in these past three years, concerning the recognition by the state of both non-married hetero couples and homosexual couples? Can we speak of an evolution or a regression?
 
For sure we can talk of a regression. The recognition by the state of non-married hetero or homosexual couples is not anymore present on the political agenda. There are virtually no political parties that would currently promote drafting a law on civil unions. It is extremely serious if we consider that what we obtained with our movie was not to spark a wider discussion, but that the issue has been set aside. Moreover, the most disappointing regression concerns the increasing number of acts of homophobia. We were the first ones to denounce in our movie such acts and often we were treated as paranoids, because apparently we were seeing things which were allegedly not true. Nowadays, the acts of homophobia are evident in their most violent form. And what’s more, they happen regularly: almost every week you can hear about an assault on a gay men, couples or lesbian couples. And those are only the acts of homophobia that are publicly known, there are much more that remain in silence. We live in a state that is lagging behind European tendencies and, I would even say, behind the rest of the world. Gay marriage is now recognised in an increasing number of states, like in the state of New York, Spain, Portugal… In the past three years there has been some progress concerning gay marriage or at least legal partnership in Europe, and Italy remains clearly behind.   
 
Which is, according to you, the main obstacle standing in the way of the recognition of homosexual couples as a family unit in Italy? And what could be the antidote to this problem?
 
Everybody believes that the reason why in Italy we are lagging behind in respect of the recognition of gay couples, but also of all the other issues that are defined as ethically sensitive (like the use of contraceptives, the law on abortion, etc..) lays within the influence of the Catholic church and in the presence of the Vatican state. This is, for sure, relevant, but I do believe that the responsibility for such a state of facts lays mainly in our political class. It is true that the church is strong in Italy, but it is also true that the church plays a significant role in Spain and Zapatero managed to pass his laws either way. I am more upset with our political class that lacks courage than with the Vatican and the Pope who are, in the end, doing their job. The Vatican can do what it wants, but Italian politicians should remember that Italy is a secular state, as it is stipulated by the Constitution. As for the antidote, it should be something cathartic like a violent revolution that will help Italy to re-gain the time it lost in the past fifty years and especially in the past fifteen years. Maybe the antidote should be a new political class more courageous and closer to Europe, a political class that will pass laws that are in line with the guidelines given by Brussels: a new political class that would replace the current class and its old vision of Italy.
 
Do you believe that the European Union can be of any support in your constant fight for the recognition of homosexual couples as well as for your fight against discrimination based on sexual orientation?
 
We hope that such a kind of help will arrive from the European Union, especially because nothing comes from the Italian establishment. However, two problems stand in the way: firstly, Italy keeps on deferring the transposition of the Union”s directives on the need to legislate on civil unions and against discrimination based on sexual orientation and secondly, gay marriages contracted abroad are not recognized in the Italian territory for reasons of public order. As a matter of fact, Europe cannot be of any help if Italy does not change its attitude towards the implementation of directives and towards gay marriage. Sadly enough, the European Union seems to gain value only when it comes to economic problems and does not seem to put the right attention to issues related to Human Rights protection. 
 
Ilaria Vianello

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