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Donatella Versace Hits Out at Italian Government’s Anti-Gay Policies

Versace Spring/Summer 2024
Versace Spring/Summer 2024 (Indigital)

Gay rights groups in Italy have praised Donatella Versace for speaking out against the government’s anti-gay policies in a heartfelt and personal speech while receiving a fashion award.

“Our government is trying to take away people’s rights to live as they wish,” Versace said on Sunday night, citing, in particular, a government policy that allows only the biological parent in same-sex couples to be officially recognised as the parent. “They are restricting our freedoms,” she said.

“We must all fight for freedom, in a time that still sees trans people suffering terrible violence, a time when children of same-sex couples are not considered their children, a time when minority voices are attacked by new laws,” said Versace, who has been the creative director of the fashion house founded by her brother Gianni Versace since his murder in 1997.

The speech received a standing ovation from a fashion crowd at La Scala in Milan, where Versace received a humanitarian award.

Gay rights activists praised her for clearly challenging the government’s actions, but called on the entire fashion community to do more.

“Donatella Versace was the first person in Italy to be so clear and explicit in the face of the government’s homophobic politics,’’ said Franco Grillini, a longtime gay rights activist. “She is one of the most important names in fashion, and I invite others to follow her example.”

Besides blocking recognition of children of same-sex couples, the rightwing government of the prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, is pushing through legislation that would ban seeking a surrogate abroad, making it punishable with prison terms and stiff penalties. A 2004 law already banned surrogacy within Italy.

The head of Italy’s Gay party also praised Versace’s support and called on her to back its campaign to get a referendum on gay marriage on the Italian ballot. It hopes to begin gathering signatures in January, aware that “this parliamentary majority does not want to give us rights”. Italy approved same-sex civil unions in 2016, the last major Western country to do so.

“Donatella Versace’s declaration is important ... She made clear how this government is diminishing freedoms and rights for the LGBTQ community,’’ said Fabrizio Marrazzo, a spokesperson for the Gay party and the referendum for egalitarian marriage. “We ask her to support us, in particular the campaign to make marriage for lesbians, gays and trans people the same as for everyone else.”

Versace was accompanied to the awards by Alessandro Zan, the Democratic party lawmaker who drafted legislation expanding anti-discrimination protections to the LGBTQ+ community. The legislation was stalled even before the Meloni government took office.

In a touching moment, Versace also recalled the day her brother Gianni came out to her.

“I was 11 years old when my brother Gianni told me he was gay. For me, it changed nothing. I loved him, and I didn’t care who he loved,’’ she told the crowd.

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