The annual ''Roma Pride'' Gay Pride parade marches through Rome with participants calling for same-sex marriage and civil unions to be allowed. Gavino Garay reports.
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) Thousands on Saturday (June 13) took to the grounds once trampled by gladiators to celebrate Rome's annual Gay Pride parade. The colorful Roma Pride parade snaked through the Eternal City's cobblestone streets and past the capital's most famous landmark, the Colosseum. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender participants and gay right supporters were dressed to impress, traveling on foot or on decorated parade floats and trucks. The festive parade had a more serious message beneath, expressed through banners and posters calling for equal rights and supporting same-sex marriage. The issue of gay rights is especially controversial in Italy, with the Vatican having criticized Gay Pride events in the past. Following the Irish vote to allow same-sex marriage, Italy, where the Roman Catholic church still has a great influence on politics, is the only Western European country not to allow same-sex marriages or civil unions. The government of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is preparing to present legislation that would allow civil unions between gay couples although there are no plans to allow full marriage. Italian gays and lesbians resent the influence that the Catholic Church, from its headquarters in a walled city state on the other side of Rome, continues to have on politics, despite dwindling congregations and a largely secular society. The landslide vote in traditionally Catholic Ireland to allow homosexuals to marry in May created shockwaves in the Vatican. Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Pope Francis' most senior Vatican official, called it a "defeat for humanity". Some of the participants, however, said that rather than the Vatican, the traditional macho culture was behind the unwillingness of Italians to accept change. Italy's Lower House of Parliament earlier in the week on Wednesday (June 10) approved a motion same-sex civil unions which was promoted by Renzi's Democratic Party (PD). The proposed civil union is similar to the one recognized in Germany, Italy's official Ansa news agency said. According to Ansa, this was the first motion from any party to gain the approval of the Lower House parliamentarians. The motion commits the government "to promote the adoption of a law on civil unions, particularly with regard to the condition of the people of same sex", Ansa reported. While gay marriage or civil partnerships are not allowed, in the past year some courts and town councils in Italy have begun to recognize the validity of same-sex marriages contracted abroad.