Fury as Venice mayor bans Pride parades

Rights groups reacted furiously on Wednesday after Venice's mayor said he would seek to ban Gay Pride parades for as long as he is in charge of the city of canals.

Fury as Venice mayor bans Pride parades
Venice's mayor Luigi Brugnaro said he would seek to ban Gay Pride parades. Photo: Alvaro Spera

“There will be no Gay Pride in my Venice,” Luigi Brugnaro said in an interview with La Repubblica, describing such celebrations as “a farce” and “the ultimate in kitsch”.

“Let them go and do it in Milan or under your windows,” he told his interviewer.

Brugnaro, a centre-right business figure elected in June, had already stirred controversy by withdrawing books depicting same-sex families from the city's nurseries and primary schools.

That move resulted in him being branded a bigot by Elton John but he insists he is no homophobe, telling Repubblica that he has “gay friends”.

Flavio Romani, the president of Italy's main gay rights group Arcigay, said the mayor could not impose his personal preferences to an entire city.

“Venice is a cosmopolitan city where multiple cultures and religions meet. Brugnaro has to understand that it does not only belong to him,” Romani told AFP.

Veneto, the region that includes Venice, has a Gay Pride parade every year. It was last in Venice in 2014 and is scheduled to return there in 2016 after being hosted by Verona this year.

“We will be back next year and we invite the mayor to march at the head of the parade with us. That way he will see what a Gay Pride really is,” Romani said.

Fabrizio Marrazzo, spokesman for another lobby group, Gay Center, accused Brugnaro of trying to turn Venice into an “off limits” city for lesbians and gays.

“We have to respond. We cannot accept such blatant discrimination,” he said, urging the gay community to organize a national Pride march in Venice with Elton John leading the way.

As well as coming under fire from the veteran British rock star, Brugnaro has been attacked by many Italian commentators for tarnishing the city's global image as a beacon of civilisation.

His latest outburst came just a week before the city is due to host Johnny Depp and a string of other international cinema stars for the annual film festival.


Italy to pay €57m compensation over Venice cruise ship ban

The Italian government announced on Friday it would pay 57.5 million euros in compensation to cruise companies affected by the decision to ban large ships from Venice's fragile lagoon.

A cruise ship in St Mark's Basin, Venice.
The decision to limit cruise ship access to the Venice lagoon has come at a cost. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

The new rules, which took effect in August, followed years of warnings that the giant floating hotels risked causing irreparable damage to the lagoon city, a UNESCO world heritage site.

READ ALSO: Venice bans large cruise ships from centre after Unesco threat of ‘endangered’ status

Some 30 million euros has been allocated for 2021 for shipping companies who incurred costs in “rescheduling routes and refunding passengers who cancelled trips”, the infrastructure ministry said in a statement.

A further 27.5 million euros – five million this year and the rest in 2022 – was allocated for the terminal operator and related companies, it said.

The decision to ban large cruise ships from the centre of Venice in July came just days before a meeting of the UN’s cultural organisation Unesco, which had proposed adding Venice to a list of endangered heritage sites over inaction on cruise ships.

READ ALSO: Is Venice really banning cruise ships from its lagoon?

Under the government’s plan, cruise ships will not be banned from Venice altogether but the biggest vessels will no longer be able to pass through St Mark’s Basin, St Mark’s Canal or the Giudecca Canal. Instead, they’ll be diverted to the industrial port at Marghera.

But critics of the plan point out that Marghera – which is on the mainland, as opposed to the passenger terminal located in the islands – is still within the Venice lagoon.

Some aspects of the plan remain unclear, as infrastructure at Marghera is still being built. Meanwhile, smaller cruise liners are still allowed through St Mark’s and the Giudecca canals.

Cruise ships provide a huge economic boost to Venice, but activists and residents say the ships contribute to problems caused by ‘overtourism’ and cause large waves that undermine the city’s foundations and harm the fragile ecosystem of its lagoon.