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social sciences

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The Post-War Period

During the post-World War II period, silence continued to be the preferred response of Italian governments to homosexuality. Laws were introduced not only to criminalize homosexual acts, but also to criminalize public discourse about homosexuality three times in the early 1960s by the Italian Social Movement (MSI), the heir to the Fascist Party, and by the small Italian Social Democratic Party (PSDI). Yet, none of the proposals was even discussed in Parliament.

This code of silence may have effectively prevented the criminalization of homosexuality, but it also made it very difficult to organize on behalf of gay and lesbian liberation. Only a few writers and filmmakers, including especially Pier Paolo Pasolino, Sandro Penna, and Pier Vittorio Tondelli, dared make homosexual desire a prominent subject in their work.

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The first glbtq organization that gained any traction was FUORI (Italian Homosexual Revolutionary Unitary Front), an acronym that also means "out" or "Come out!" It was established in 1971, inspired by the writings of Italy's leading gay theorist and activist Massimo Consoli (1945-2007), especially his Manifesto per la Rivoluzione Morale: l'Omosessualità Rivoluzionaria (Manifesto for the moral revolution: Revolutionary homosexuality).

Mostly composed of male militants, FUORI initially found little support from the mainstream left of the Socialist and Communist Parties. Hence, in 1974, it affiliated with the Radical Party, a minor leftist party that became associated with civil rights after campaigning for the legalization of divorce and abortion.

This new alliance allowed the leader of FUORI, Angelo Pezzana, to become the first openly-gay candidate to be elected to Parliament in 1976, although he resigned before taking his seat. However, not everyone in FUORI approved of the alliance with the Radical Party, and its most militant left-wing members seceded, preferring to make their voices heard in less institutional contexts, such as the students' movement of 1977.

Among the activists who left FUORI was Mario Mieli (1952-1983), who is best known for his Marxist account of homosexuality and homosexual oppression, Elementi di critica omossuale (1977), translated into English in 1980 as Homosexuality and Liberation: Elements of a Gay Critique (1980). He regarded the alliance with the Radical Party as "counter-revolutionary," since he thought the gay movement should remain independent of political parties. He left FUORI to help organize the Collettivi Omosessuali Milanesi (Homosexual collectives of Milan).

Since the 1980s, some of the leftist political parties, including the Italian Communist Party (subsequently renamed Democratic Party of the Left and then splintered into other parties), have become more open to the demands of the glbt movement.

Moreover, the left-wing network of cultural and recreational associations (ARCI) supported the formation of a gay branch, Arcigay, which quickly became the major Italian gay organization. Arcigay lobbies for recognition of gay and lesbian couples and for nondiscrimination policies.

In 1982, the Communist-led administration of Bologna, one of Northern Italy's major cities, made history by leasing one of its buildings to the local chapter of Arcigay in spite of the bitter opposition of the Catholic Church.

Throughout the 1980s, the Italian gay movement was mainly concerned with lobbying the government for the prevention and treatment of AIDS, requesting that specific campaigns be targeted to homosexuals and challenging the taboo against mentioning the use of condom as a principal means of prevention.

In the 1990s, openly gay candidates began to be elected to the national parliament. However, the movement splintered into different organizations.

While Arcigay remains the largest queer organization in Italy, other groups on both the right and left emerged in the 1990s. For example, Gaylib was founded in 1997 by activists who wanted to enter a dialogue with the more liberal sectors of the political right. More radical militants who found the institutional and parliamentary left's support for gay causes timid at best have formed more confrontational groups such as Antagonismo Gay and the lesbian organization Fuoricampo.

An important event that contributed to the visibility of the Italian queer movement was the 2000 World Pride parade that took place in Rome, in spite of the Vatican's opposition.

The World Pride parade was particularly controversial because it coincided with the Catholic Jubilee, a millennial celebration that attracted millions of pilgrims to Rome to commemorate two thousand years of Christianity. The Catholic Church together with the Italian political right declared that the parade would be offensive to Christian values and sensibilities and loudly voiced their opposition to the event.

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