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Venice's Mayor Wants to Ban the Gay Pride Parade — But Says He's Not Homophobic

Brugnaro had earlier moved to ban 49 books that he said contained references to homosexuality or same-sex marriage from the city's preschool and primary school libraries.
Pierre Longeray
Paris, FR
Photo by Luigi Costantini/AP

Venice's new center-right mayor Luigi Brugnaro provoked quite a reaction after the Italian daily La Repubblica published an interview with him in which he said that he would not tolerate a gay pride parade in the floating city.

"There will be no gay pride in my Venice," he asserted before dismissing such marches as "buffoonery" and "the height of kitsch."

"Let them go and do it in Milan," he said, "or outside their own homes." When approached for comment by VICE News, Venice's City Hall declined to elaborate on his remarks.


Brugnaro had earlier garnered international headlines for moving to ban 49 books that he said contained references to homosexuality or same-sex marriage from the city's preschool and primary school libraries.

At the time, the mayor defended his decision by saying that parents "should educate children about these things, not schools."

Following outcry, he settled for singling out two books: Ophélie Texier's Jean Has Two Moms and Francesca Pardi's Little Egg, the story of an unhatched egg that decides to get acquainted with all kinds of different families before it hatches.

Ecco uno dei libri — Luigi Brugnaro (@LuigiBrugnaro)July 8, 2015

"Here is one of the books removed from schools and pre-schools. A French book with two moms."

The mayor of the "City of Love" — which is home to one of the world's biggest, gaudiest carnivals — has brushed off accusations of homophobia, insisting to the La Repubblica interviewer that he has friends who are gay.

Flavio Romani, president of the Italian gay rights organization Arcigay, responded to the latest provocation by inviting the mayor to "march at the front" of the next gay pride parade, which Venice is scheduled to host in 2016. "That way he will see what a gay pride really is," Romani told the AFP.

"Venice is a cosmopolitan city where multiple cultures and religions meet," Romani added. "Brugnaro has to understand that it doesn't only belong to him."


Every year, each region in Italy hosts its own gay pride parade, including Veneto — the region that includes Venice. This year, the Veneto gay pride event took place in Verona.

The pop star Elton John, a gay father of two who owns a house in Venice, criticized Brugnaro after the children's book controversy, saying that he was "championing a future society that's divisive and fosters ignorance." Fabrizio Marrazzo, a spokesperson for the Gay Centre association, has since invited Elton John to open the parade.

Not content with banning children's books, Brugnaro has extended his censorship to art shows, suspending an exhibition of photographs by Gianni Berengo Gardin until further notice. According to the mayor, Gardin's photographs of enormous cruise ships looming ominously over the city might give "a negative image of the city" and could be interpreted as criticism of the cruise liners that bring throngs of tourists to Venice.

Le maire de Venise, Luigi Brugnaro, a décidé de censurer l'expo 'les monstres marins' — Kwinten Lambrecht (@kwinlambrecht)August 25, 2015

"Venice mayor Luigi Brugnaro has decided to censor the Sea Monsters exhibition."

After three decades of left-wing leaders, Venice changed its political stripes in June when voters elected Brugnaro to office with 53.2 percent of the vote. Brugnaro's victory followed a major corruption scandal involving Venice's previous mayor, the center-left politician Giorgio Orsoni.

Orsoni was forced to resign after he was arrested along with 34 other city officials in June 2014 on suspicion of misappropriating government funds earmarked for building flood defenses. Orsini was accused of taking 400,000 euros ($450,000) of the budget allocated to a project to protect Venice from flooding in order to finance his 2010 electoral campaign. Nearly 100 people wereinvestigatedas part of the scandal.

Prior to becoming mayor, Brugnaro was a successful businessman who founded the Italian temp agency Umana, a company that boasts annual revenues of 300 million euros. He is also the owner and president of Venice's pro basketball team, Reyer Maschile Venezia.

Follow Pierre Longeray on Twitter: @PLongeray