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Sicily Elects Its First Openly Gay Governor

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Wednesday Oct 31, 2012
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An out-politician from the Italian Democratic Party was elected as Sicily’s first openly gay governor on Sunday, the Italian news agency Adnkronos reports.

Rosario Crocetta won the race for governor with more than 30 percent of the vote and handily defeated his conservative opponent, Nello Musumeci, who won nearly 26 percent of the vote. The Popolo della Liberta, or the People of Freedom, is the right-wing party that has governed Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, for the past 10 years.

"Today is more than an election result, it is a date with history," Crocetta told the Italian media. "It’s the first time that a candidate for the left is elected as regional governor, it’s the first time that an anti-Mafia candidate wins," he said.

The British newspaper the Guardian points out that Crocetta is known for standing up to the Mafia and has survived three assassination attempts against him. As anyone who has seen the "Godfather" films knows, the crime organization has its roots in the island, which resembles a football being kicked by the Italian mainland -- not the worst metaphor for one of Italy’s poorest and, according to locals, most-neglected region.

Most recently, Sicily has become involved in convulsions rocking its close neighbor across the Mediterranean Sea, Libya. The island has become home to refugees fleeing the chaos in the African nation and is being used as a possible deployment station for troops that include U.S. forces.

Gay Star News notes that the politician may not be able to progress LGBT rights as he leads a coalition with the Union of Christian Democrats, which is a centrist party closely linked with the Catholic Church.

While campaigning, Crocetta even said, "In case of victory, I will say goodbye to sex and sexuality, I’ll be married only to Sicily and to Sicilians." He also said that "chastity is the best way of life for a politician," which will be news to most of them, including Silvio Berlusconi, the man who until recently headed Italy’s government and became as well known for not-so-secret private "parties" involving girls dressed as nuns as for his conservative politics.

"When you are dealing with such a responsibility, you have to be quiet and considerate," Crocetta said, also a revelation in a nation now exactly known for its quiescent politics. Italy has had more governments since the Second World War than any nation in Europe (or possibly anywhere). Legislators have been known to start fistfights in the nation’s parliament, where members have included one of the country’s most popular porn stars.

The politician was outed by his conservative opponent in 2003 when he was running for mayor of Gela, Sicily. Nevertheless, he won the election and became the first openly gay mayor in Italy.

Modern Italy represents an odd combination of secularism and devotion to the Roman Catholic Church, which, as its name implies, has its deepest roots in the Italian peninsula.

Currently, Italy does not recognize same-sex marriage and gay couples do not have shared rights to property, social security and inheritance. Over the past two decades there have been many bills introduced into Parliament that would legalize civil unions but none have been approved. But gay men and woman are allowed to openly serve in the military and Italy does have discrimination laws that protect members of the LGBT community.

Crocetta isn’t Italy’s first prominent openly gay politician. Nichi Vendola, another out-Democrat, is the governor of Apulia, located in the "heel" of Italy directly across the peninsula from Sicily.

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