Thousands of opponents of gay equality rallied in Rome yesterday, in opposition to proposals to allow same-sex unions.

Matteo Renzi’s government pushed forward with a civil unions bill earlier this month, after the European Court of Human Rights upheld complaints of discrimination by same-sex couples at the lack of legal recognition in Italy.

However, the bill has stirred up resentment between the LGBT community and the country’s powerful anti-gay Catholic lobbying groups.

A number of anti-gay marches have been held amid ‘outcry’ over the bill, with thousands of people attending a rally against civil unions in Rome yesterday.

Despite supposedly only opposing civil unions, many of the protesters were openly homophobic – with signs even likening gay people to Nazis.

One popular banner at the event read “No to the Gaystapo”.

Others chanted that a “child needs a mother and a father”,

A large number of Catholic priests attended the rally, signalling the Church’s continuing blanket opposition to LGBT rights.

Organisers claim that up to two million people attended the ‘Family Day’ rally – a number parroted by some media outlets.

However, strong doubts have been raised about the number, with one reporter noting that if two million people did actually show up, they would not physically fit into the protest area.

The LA Times puts the estimate at “far fewer than a million”, with other estimates ranging from tens to hundreds of thousands.