The day after, there’s the usual war of numbers: 20,000 according to the police, 80,000 for the organisers; La Repubblica‘s settled on 50,000. Whoever may be right (and I’d go with La Repubblica), Piazza Farnese was jammed with adults, children, dogs taking part in the protest in favour of civil unions, currently under attack from the centre-right, the Vatican and elements within the cnetre-left government, notably the Minister of Justice, Clemente Mastella (whose party polled 1.4% of votes in the last election), and Opus Dei member Paola Binetti, centre-left senator and, god help us, psychiatrist, who recently announced that homosexuality was deviant behaviour (and who is also known as a self-flagellant). The mood was contained, static, even dull; certainly not festive, despite the presence of a score or so of rainbow banners. A stall was selling the usual T-shirts, with Che Guevara, surely no homophile, prominent among them. Most of the flags belonged to political factions within the governing coalition (the Rose in the Fist, Rifondazione Comunista, the Greens), although several handwritten banners showed a camper, less party aligned spirit.
We were there to tell the government that civil unions are still on the agenda, whatever the Vatican and Andreotti might think, and three government ministers were there to tell us how right we were, although the promised presence of some centre-right representatives remained unfulfilled. It’s obviously a cross-party issue, though, and it will be interesting to see how people vote when a bill of some sort reaches parliament. Cecchi Paone, television presenter and Forza Italia MP, apparently had a hissy fit and left the stage, but this was set so low only a privileged few could see it. There were very few police and some of those present were parked as usual outside the home of Cesare Previti, corrupter of judges and Berlusconi sidekick; the scaffolding against his building had the largest banner of the day, announcing Io DICO Zapatero! The Spanish PM was definitely the event’s patron saint, and placards to his sanctity were scattered throughout the crowd.
There were none of the usual leather chaps framing bare bums, disco bunnies and male-on-male snogging that, for better or worse, tend to characterise gay protests, though I did see one couple of youngish men share a fairly chaste kiss. This was only fitting. After all, the law–if it ever exists–won’t only protect gay couples, as civil partnerships do in the UK, but any two people bound by ‘affective ties’. Even the highly-publicised wake-up alarm, which went off at six with the help of clocks, mobiles, etc, felt angry rather than shrill.
The only sour note occurred later, as Peppe and I walked through the centre of Rome. We were just past the Pantheon when we heard a waiter announce to no one in particular that Rome was full of queers. And today, there’s news of the arrest of the latest Rumanian rentboy-cum-murderer, obliged to kill a man forty years older than he is to protect his honour. Business as usual in the shadow of the Vatican.