More than 200 police officers, paramilitary troops and members of the Armed Forces in Italy have set up a new gay organisation.

The group will have its first meeting later this month in Bologna.

Gay rights groups in Italy have praised the group and pointed out the harassment that gay people face in the police and Armed Forces.

”The birth of Polis Aperta marks an important new landmark in the creation of of an ever more visible lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community,” said Arcigay, Italy’s main LGBT organisation.

”The presence of visible gays and lesbians in the armed forces and police will help these institutions to address the homosexual issue in a new and positive way and lead to a significant improvement in the everyday lives of of gay service people.”

Italy, like nearly all EU member states, has no specific ban on gay or lesbian people serving in the military or police.

In July a court ordered the Italian government to pay €100,000 (£80,000) in damages to a man forced to retake his driving test because he was gay.

Danilo Giuffrida, now aged 26, told the authorities that he was gay in 2001 while he was undergoing routine medical tests prior to military service.

The military hospital where he was examined later passed on the details of his sexuality to the transport ministry saying that Signor Giuffrida did not posses the “psycho-physical capabilities required” to drive a vehicle.

His driving licence was revoked due to what was described as a “sexual identity disturbance”.

After retaking the test, which he passed, he was awarded a year long licence instead of the standard ten years due to his sexuality.

The court found that both the Defence and Transport Ministries showed “evident sexually humiliating discrimination” against Signor Giuffrida. This breached his constitutional rights, the court ruled.

Signor Giuffrida’s lawyer told reporters that he hoped that Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi, would “apologise to him on behalf of the state and all Italians.”

Conservative media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi won the Italian general election last April and began his third term as Prime Minister.

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.