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Donatella Versace Blasts the Italian Government’s Wave of Anti-LGBTQ+ Policies

Donatella Versace Blasts the Italian Government’s Wave of Anti-LGBTQ+ Policies

Donatella Versace
Stefania D'Alessandro/Getty Images

In an impassioned speech at an award ceremony last Sunday, the designer denounced Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s far-right-led coalition for ongoing measures to restrict LGBTQ+ rights.

By Marianna Cerini, CNN

Milan (CNN) — Just days after Milan Fashion Week, Donatella Versace is making headlines not for her — albeit well-received — Spring-Summer 2024 collection but for her stance on the Italian government’s anti-LGBTQ+ policies.

In an impassioned speech at an award ceremony in Milan on Sunday night, the designer denounced Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s far-right-led coalition for ongoing measures to restrict LGBTQ+ rights, including a clampdown on same-sex parents. Versace, the creative director of her namesake label, received a standing ovation for the comments as she accepted a prize for equity and inclusivity at the CNMI Sustainable Fashion Awards.

“Here in Italy, it has never been more important for us to champion minority voices. Our government is set on taking away the rights of individuals to live as they wish,” Versace said. “The freedom to walk down the street with your head held high and without fear, whatever your identity. The freedom to start a family and live the way we want. The freedom to love who we want. We all have a duty to fight for our freedom.”

Although Italy legalized same-sex civil unions in 2016, the country does not permit same-sex marriage, “stepchildren adoption” or surrogacy, stances that rights groups attribute to opposition from the Catholic Church. A controversial new policy, alluded to by Versace in her speech, has seen the interior ministry demand that — in cases where same-sex couples had children via surrogacy abroad — officials only register one biological parent on their birth certificates and earlier this year, in the northern city of Padua, Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party began removing the names of non-biological gay mothers from their child’s birth certificates. In July, Meloni’s government passed a bill criminalizing overseas surrogacy entirely.

“At a time when trans people are still victims of terrible violence, when children of same-sex couples are not considered their children and when minorities are targeted by new legislation … we still have much to do,” Versace said.

The designer was accompanied at the event by Alessandro Zan, a member of Italy’s parliament and an outspoken LGBTQ+ activist. In 2018, Zan proposed a bill to amend Italy’s penal code to ban discrimination on the grounds of sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability that was eventually rejected three years later.

In response to a request for comment from CNN, the Prime Minister’s office said: “The Prime Minister has not commented on Donatella Versace’s remarks.”

Members of Italy’s LGBTQ+ community have since praised Versace for her comments.

“We thank Donatella Versace for breaking the asphyxiating silence of convenience that we have long recorded on the unbelievable actions of the Meloni government,” Gabriele Piazzoni, secretary general of Arcigay, the country’s largest LGBTQ+ not-for-profit organization, told CNN via email.

“Versace is right: Giorgia Meloni’s government daily and methodically erodes the rights and dignity of many social groups, both on a symbolic and very concrete level,” she added. “It happens with LGBTQIA+ people, with women, with migrant people, and that’s to name just a few.”

Fabrizio Marrazzo, spokesperson for Italy’s Gay Party, a political group formed in 2020 to champion anti-discrimination measures, meanwhile described Versace’s speech as “a positive step for Italy’s business and fashion world at large.”

“She’s been one of the very few figures that hasn’t been afraid to make her thoughts heard, and we can only hope more will follow her example,” he told CNN in a phone interview. “We certainly aren’t the only ones to believe our government is quashing our rights.”

“It’s pure discrimination,” Marrazzo added of the government’s stance towards same-sex parents.

While the new policies have drawn thousands of protestors to the streets of Milan, Italian brands and fashion industry figures have largely remained quiet on the divisive issue. Marrazzo attributed this to fear of repercussions. “I think a lot of companies believe they might lose a big chunk of their audience — and consequently, a huge amount of money — if they say something,” he said. “But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Many Italians are with us.”

Versace, however, has long been a vocal advocate for gay rights. In June 2022, Capri Holdings, her label’s parent company, launched the Versace Foundation to support programs, projects and activities designed to generate awareness and support for the LGBTQ+ community.

During her speech on Sunday, the designer recalled her late brother Gianni Versace coming out to her as gay when she was 11 years old. “For me it changed nothing. I loved him and I didn’t care who he loved,” she said.

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