Sat. Dec 3rd, 2022

Controversy erupted in Italy on Wednesday when a right-wing parliamentarian voiced his opposition to same-sex marriage and said the Bible considers homosexuality an “abomination.”

Lucio Malan, 62, is the chief representative of the Brothers of Italy, a nationalist party led by Giorgio Meloni — who was elected Italy’s prime minister in September.

The Turin-born politician made the comments on Rai Radio 1’s ‘Un giorno da pecora’ on Tuesday after being confronted about his rejection of same-sex marriage and the anti-homophobia bill rejected by the Senate last October.

“I [was] against the law,” he said, describing his decision last year to join Meloni’s hard-line conservatives after leaving Berlusconi’s moderate Forza Italia – part of Draghi’s former big tent government – because it had to “hold the line… .it was too close to the political left” .

The show’s hosts further questioned Malan, who is a member of the Waldensian Evangelical Church — a small and historically persecuted northern Italian Protestant denomination with a liberal outlook on social issues — about why he would oppose same-sex marriage, despite his own church’s acceptance of homosexual relationships.

“We are not obliged to obey [the church],” he replied. “The Waldensian Evangelical Church … is founded on the Bible, not on its hierarchy.”

“[The Bible] says that homosexuality is an abomination and a number of other things,” he added, referring to an Old Testament verse (Leviticus 18:22).

Malan’s comments sparked outrage that united Italy’s fragmented opposition, generating critical responses from most parties, as well as LGBTQ associations and even Catholic theologians.

“In any Western country, the party secretary would have already removed Malan from his role as chief whip,” Carlo Calenda, head of the centrist Aziona, tweeted on Tuesday morning.

The top leader of the populist Five Star Movement in the Senate, Barbara Floridia, described Malan’s statements as “despicable” and “confusing”.

Alessandro Zan, a center-left lawmaker and author of the failed anti-homophobia bill in question, went on to ask if Malano was “also the position of Giorgia Meloni and the leading party in government?”

Meloni herself has not yet commented on the controversy. The fresh-faced prime minister shares Malan’s opposition to same-sex marriage on legal grounds, but has repeatedly condemned homophobia throughout her career.

In response to the outcry, the Brethren of Italy senator retweeted a comment on Twitter that implied his words had been taken out of context and claimed he was merely quoting the Bible.

But one Catholic academic and biblical expert, Alberto Maggi, even addressed the alleged theological and historical inaccuracy of Malano’s remarks.

“The term ‘homosexuality’ does not exist in the Bible,” he said. “The oft-quoted verses of Leviticus do not deal with homosexuality… what do they [talk about] it has nothing to do with individual sexuality, but with the question of procreation, which was very important in that culture.”

The public uproar over Malan’s statement represents one in a long line of homophobia-related controversies involving the Brothers of Italy — a political force often accused of harboring neo-fascists. Back in 2013, the party was criticized for an inciting video published by its candidates in Veneto, while pregnant Meloni publicly stated in 2016 that she “would rather not” have a gay child.