The mayor of Venice, who this month had a public spat with British rock star Elton John over family values, says there will never be a Gay Pride parade in the city while he is in charge.
Luigi Brugnaro, a businessman who was elected mayor on a centre-right ticket in June, told la Repubblica daily that gay pride marches were the "height of kitsch."
"There will never be a Gay Pride in my city," he was quoted as saying in Wednesday's paper. "Let them go and do it in Milan, or in front of their own homes," he said.
Italy's rights group Arcigay holds Gay Pride parades in numerous Italian cities each year, last visiting Venice in 2014. It denounced Brugnaro's broadside, accusing him of besmirching Venice's reputation as an open, sophisticated society. "Venice is not his city. At the moment he is governing it, but he won't last long given the fool he is making of himself," said Arcigay President Flavio Romani.
"He is becoming obsessive about this. Venice does not deserve it," Romani told Reuters. Brugnaro sparked a controversy soon after taking office by banning books featuring same-sex couples from the city schools.
Elton John, who has two children with his partner David Furnish, used his Instagram page this month to condemn the move, calling Brugnaro "boorishly bigoted." The mayor told the singer to keep out of Venice's business.
Brugnaro's comments come at a time when the government is struggling to pass legislation that would finally give legal recognition to same-sex couples in predominantly Roman Catholic Italy.
Italy is the only major western European country that does not recognize either civil partnerships or gay marriage. Despite prodding from the European Court of Human Rights, some centre-right parties are digging in their heels to snarl progress on the long-delayed law.
"It is a national scandal," Romani said. "Sadly in this country, some politicians listen more to what the bishops tell them rather than what society is saying."