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Legislators condemn nativity scene dolls
Wed Dec 20, 8:38 PM ET
Two Italian legislators caused an uproar among colleagues in this predominantly Catholic country on Wednesday when they placed dolls representing two gay couples in Parliament's nativity scene.
Bruno Mellano and Donatella Porretti of the small but vocal Radical Party said their gesture was intended to show support for a law that would give unmarried couples, including gays, some of the same rights as married couples. But it prompted swift and stern condemnation from shocked legislators on all sides.
"Vulgar and unacceptable," said a statement by women deputies with the rightist, opposition Forza Italia party.
Pro-Vatican politician Rosy Bindi called the move "a useless provocation against the nativity of the Chamber of Deputies that hurts us as Christians and as citizens of this country," in comments carried by the ANSA agency.
The four dolls in question included dolls embracing. They were removed within minutes, according to the ANSA news agency.
Furor in Italy over "gay nativity" in parliament
By Philip Pullella
Wed Dec 20, 11:38 AM ET
Two leftists in Italy's ruling coalition on Wednesday outraged fellow lawmakers by placing four dolls representing homosexual couples near the baby Jesus in the official nativity scene in parliament.
The two parliamentarians from the small "Rose in the Fist" party said their gesture was to promote the legalization of gay marriage and granting legal recognition to unmarried couples.
Bruno Mellano and Donatella Poretti placed the Barbie and Ken-type dolls in the parliamentary nativity scene, each couple lying down embraced among the shepherds witnessing the birth of Jesus.
Each of the two doll couples, which parliamentary ushers removed after a few minutes, wore miniature placards with slogans in favor of gay rights.
"This is a vulgar and unacceptable double attack against both a (national) institution as well as a religious symbol," a group of women parliamentarians of the opposition conservative Forza Italia party said in a statement.
Luca Volonte, a member of the small centrist opposition Union of Christian Democrats, called the gesture a "pure attack against the religion practiced by the majority of Italians."
Italy is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic and nativity scenes, featuring figures of the baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, shepherds, animals and three kings bearing gifts, are put but in many homes, squares and shops.
Some members of the opposition demanded the lawmakers be censured by the speaker of the lower house of parliament.
But even the Italian Communist Party, which supports gay rights and is also in the ruling coalition of Prime Minister Romano Prodi, distanced itself from the action.
One communist parliamentarian called it "a grave political error" that would not help homosexuals.
The two leftist politicians carried out their gesture just before Pope Benedict, speaking to pilgrims and tourists at the Vatican, said Christmas creches were part of Christian culture that had to be defended.
In recent weeks, several state schools have decided not to erect the nativity scene. Some shops decided not to sell them, saying they were not popular or did not fit their image.
But even Education Minister Giuseppe Fioroni has criticized such schools, saying they had gone too far in banning nativity scenes which could instead be used as tools for inter-religious dialogue.