Italy’s new Families minister has insisted that gay families ‘don’t exist’ legally in the country.
Lorenzo Fontana was been named Italy’s new Minister for Family and Disability in the new cabinet appointed as part of the coalition between right-wing Lega Nord and populist Five Star Movement.
The politician, a Lega member with a consistent history of opposing LGBT rights, has come under scrutiny after his appointment to the post.
In a tense interview with Italian-language newspaper Corriere della Sera, he denied making homophobic comments, saying he was not “against gays.”
He said: “I have many homosexual friends… after all I lived in Brussels for many years where there are many gay people in powerful positions.”
The politician added: “I am Catholic, I do not hide it. And that’s why I believe that the family is the natural one, where a child must have a mother and a father.”
When the interviewer persisted with questions about how he would act towards children of same-sex families, he said: “Ah, for heaven’s sake! There will never be any kind of discrimination towards children.
“Measures to support children will be extended to all children, indiscriminately and irrespective of their parents.”
Asked if he would respect the rights of Rainbow families – a term often used to refer to children of LGBT parents – Fontana bizarrely suggested they don’t exist.
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When informed there are many such families in Italy, he said: “Under the law, they don’t exist right now.”
The chilling suggestion led to protests from LGBT activists, who used the hashtag #NoiEsistiamo (We Exist) on social media to share photos of their Rainbow families with the minister.
According The Local, Fontana previously expressed admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who holds anti-LGBT stances and supports Russia’s ‘gay propaganda’ law.
He also previously claimed that same-sex marriage, transgender people and immigration would “wipe out our community and our traditions.”
Italy was recently ranked one of the worst countries in Western Europe on LGBT rights, lagging behind many of its neighbours.
Same-sex couples were finally granted some limited recognition via civil unions in 2016 after a court ruling.
However the powerful Catholic Church has aggressively opposed LGBT rights in the country.
Currently same-sex couples are not permitted to jointly adopt and access to IVF is also restricted.
A child was born via IVF to a same-sex couple in Turin in April after they underwent the procedure in Denmark.