Italy's 5-Stars step back from minister's anti-gay remarks

ROME — The 5-Star Movement, one of the two populist parties in Italy's new government, distanced itself Sunday from anti-gay comments made by a minister from its right-wing coalition partner, saying issues like same-sex civil unions deliberately were kept off their common political agenda.

Family and Disabilities Minister Lorenzo Fontana, a member of the right-wing League party, said after the government took office Friday that families headed by gay couples don't legally exist in Italy.

Fontana, who arrived for the Cabinet's swearing-in ceremony carrying his baby daughter and accompanied by his wife, told reporters that "families are those natural ones, where a child must have a mom and a dad."

He added that as a Catholic, he also would work to beef up offices which can "try to dissuade women from aborting."

A 5-Star Movement lawmaker, Maria Edera Spadoni, called Fontana's comments not "opportune."

"It's no mystery that on ethical issues there are very different sensibilities" between the Movement and the League, Spadoni said in an interview with Corriere della Sera newspaper.

Spadoni said the differing positions of the two parties were why issues deemed "too divisive," including abortion, living wills and LGBT families, deliberately were kept out of the policy pact the rival populist forces negotiated

League leader Matteo Salvini hastened to insist that undoing liberal laws allowing same-sex civil unions and abortion aren't on the agenda of the new government.

"As a father, I'm concerned that children must have a papa and mamma," Salvini said after gay rights advocates blasted Fontana's remarks. "But the question isn't on the agenda of this government."

Italy enacted a same-sex civil union law in 2016 during the previous Democratic Party-led government.

With the Vatican's often wielding influence on Italy's social legislation, the country doesn't allow same-sex marriages. Italy also doesn't allow single people to adopt children whatever their sexual orientation.

The Vatican suffered a stinging defeat in 1981, when Italian voters, in a referendum, decided to uphold a 1978 law legalizing abortion after years of bitter political battles.

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