"We do not accept gays or animals." This was the shocking message the owner of a holiday house in the seaside village of Santa Maria, Calabria, Italy, sent to two gay men who had reserved the house earlier this summer.
The couple, from Naples, had already confirmed their reservation when the owner discovered the two were a couple. He sent them the above message before their arrival, telling them they wouldn’t be allowed into the house.
Hurt and outraged, the couple decided to go public with the help of a local gay rights organization, and the case was immediately picked up by the Italian media.
The owner of the house apologized, saying he wrote the message while driving and did not put any thought into it. But he did not change his position: it was a matter of religion, he said, and as a faithful Catholic, he would never accept any family other than a traditional one.
Guide against discrimination
In addition to being extremely discriminatory and unacceptable in a civilized society, this kind of attitude can be very harmful to young, vulnerable homosexuals who struggle to accept themselves, as the couple in question pointed out.
In order for homosexuals to assert their rights and avoid (and even denounce) similar situations, Rete Lenford, an association of lawyers and a member of the Italian Coalition for Civil Liberties and Rights, created a useful guide against discrimination.
Gap in the law
There is a regulatory gap, both in Italian and European legislation, regarding safeguards against discrimination in accessing goods and services: they relate only to discrimination based on gender and ethnicity.
There has been no movement on proposals to extend these regulations. In Italy, there is not even a central independent authority in charge of ensuring that discrimination does not happen in such situations; the regions have a small degree of independence and can create laws against discrimination, but only a few of them have regulations against the discrimination of homosexuals.
Nevertheless, people can have access to both a financial refund and compensation for the violation of personal dignity because of the discrimination suffered in relation to the access of goods and services. Moreover, they can (and should) report the discrimination so that the offender faces administrative sanctions.
Increasing public pressure for change
As unpleasant as this case is, it has been useful for raising public awareness about the ongoing discrimination against LGBT people in Italy, and the huge advancements, both legal and societal, that must still be achieved.
Hopefully, this case will encourage more people to denounce similar situations whenever and wherever they arise, and spark a greater public outcry for decision-makers to improve the legal protections for LGBT people.