6 May 2013

Italian minister removed after comment on gays

7:46 am on 6 May 2013

A junior Italian equal opportunities minister has been removed from her post less than 24 hours after being sworn in to the new coalition government after she said gays invited discrimination by "ghettoising" themselves.

The abrupt departure was a fresh reminder of just how delicate Prime Minister Enrico Letta's fledgling left-right coalition is, Reuters reports.

Gay rights groups protested on Friday after Michaela Biancofiore, a parliamentarian from former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right People of Freedom party (PDL), was made an undersecretary in the equal opportunities ministry.

They accused her of having made comments they considered homophobic, a charge she denied.

Responding to the criticism, she told Italian newspapers: "For once, I would like to see gay associations, instead of 'ghettoising' themselves ... say something to condemn the recent spate of killings of women (in Italy). All they do is defend their own interests".

According to Italian media, her comments had upset Mr Letta, particularly because he had appealed to members of his coalition government just a day before to observe "sobriety" in their public comments and work as a team.

Ms Biancofiore, who says she is opposed to gay marriage but supports civil unions to protect gay couples, was re-assigned on Saturday to the civil service ministry.

Mr Letta's government is made up of his Democratic Party (PD), Mr Berlusconi's PDL and centrists led by former prime minister Mario Monti, an uneasy alliance pitting old political enemies against each other.