Gay marriage banned from Italian state TV channel
Ruth Michaelson: Gay marriage banned from Italian state TV channel
12 Sep 11

A German TV show depicting a marriage between two men is being prevented from being screened by Italian state broadcaster Radiotelevisione Italiana (RAI).  The ARD series “Um Himmels Willen” (literally “For Heaven’s Sake”) has been shown in Italy since 2004, yet episode 125, entitled “Romeo and Romeo” and due to screen on RAI Uno on Tuesday, will be left out of the 10-part season in order to “avoid controversy”, according to the broadcaster.

Gay marriage being if not universally accepted then at least legal in Germany, the TV show itself concerns the struggle of two men to see their marriage and sexuality accepted by the society around them. Ironically given the normally religious basis of anti-homosexual activity in Italy, this particular episode sees the couple seeking advice from regular “Um Himmels Willen” character, Sister Hanna, a nun.

Anna Paola Concia, Italian parliamentary lobbyist for the opposition Democratic Party and the only openly gay person in her profession, was quick to underline the hypocrisy of RAI’s decision. “RAI have pushed for censorship of reality itself here,” she said “especially when you consider that there have been several films showing homosexual relationships on TV here.” Concia told Tagesschau, the news-channel from the ARD network (Arbeitsgemeinschaft der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, since you asked), that reactions to her marriage to her wife in the German town of Frankfurt am Main proved that RAI is working on the false assumption that the Italian public will be angered by seeing a gay relationship on TV. “We received thousands of letters from ‘normal’ Italian people; Catholic, non-Catholic, heterosexual, in order to congratulate us and wish us well,” she said. “There is an enormous gap between the beliefs of the government and the people in this country, and it’s getting wider.”

Italy, with its prime minister Silvio Berlusconi known for his promotion of traditional values, also recently banned an IKEA advert depicting two men shopping in the store with the strapline “we are open for all families.” State secretary for families, Carlo Giovanardi, stated in response: “While homosexual marriage is legal in maybe three or four countries worldwide, here it remains unconstitutional.”

Um Himmels Willen also screens in Hungary, which explicitly banned gay marriage in its new constitution of April 2011.

Ruth Michaelson is a freelance writer based in Berlin, Germany


By Ruth Michaelson

Ruth Michaelson is a correspondent for Radio France International and freelance journalist based in the Middle East. Her work has appeared in a variety of outlets from Le Monde Diplomatique to Vice. She is currently based in Cairo as part of the Global Post GroundTruth Project.