A former fascist elected to lead one of Europe’s biggest cities has spoken out against the gay community.

Gianni Alemanno defeated his opponents to take control of Rome on April 28th.

He is the first right-wing Mayor of the city in 15 years.

Last week he set his sights on Pride, but claimed he was acting in the interests of public decency and not in opposition to gay people.

“I respect homosexuals, I know some,” he said.

“But I fear that the Gay Pride or anything else, an act of sexual exhibition, and I am opposed to any form of exhibition, homosexual or heterosexual.”

Fabrizio Marrazzo, head of Italy’s gay rights group Arcigay, said: “Pride is not an exhibition of sexual orientation, but a moment of reflection for gays, lesbians, and the transgendered.”

Fomer leftist MP Franco Grillini commented: “We knew that the Italian right, the worst in Europe, disliked this event. To the right, the acceptable gay is the one who lies (about who he is) and claims no rights.”

Mayor Alemanno said that the city would work out a “formula” for events such as Pride to make sure the event does not offend Romans.

Conservative media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi won the Italian general election last month and began his third term as Prime Minister after beating socialist Walter Veltroni.

Mayor Alemanno was elected under the banner of Berlusconi’s People of Liberty party.

With Mr Berlusconi and his allies back in office the modest gay rights agenda is likely to be abandoned completely.

He has already been one of Italy’s longest-serving post-war Prime Ministers, from 2001 to 2006 and also briefly from April 1994 to January 1995.

Italy remains divided over the extent that gay and unmarried couples should benefit from the legal rights that married heterosexual couples enjoy.

Last year’s proposed legislation to allow unmarried couples of any sexual orientation to formally register with their local authority and receive legal rights in areas such as property, inheritance and employment was attacked by Mr Berlusconi.

“It creates exactly what we didn’t want, a sort of ‘second division’ marriage which devalues the meaning of family,” he said.