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Italy. At least 200,000 people gathered in Rome this weekend to protest Italy’s civil unions bill, claiming only one type of family should be allowed.

No love at the Italian ‘Family Day’

Protesters in Rome declared themselves full of love, but in reality they showed their arrogance. They want to decide who to love and how to do it — and above all, who’s allowed.

They want the right to call themselves a family, a government-sanctioned legitimacy claimed only for themselves: man-woman, yes; man-man, woman-woman, no. They want the right to decide who can have children and who cannot. And what’s more, they want to legislate the purpose of sexuality: It is right to have sex for procreation, it is wrong to have sex for pleasure.

“We’re not making war against anyone,” assured the neurosurgeon Massimo Gandolfini from the stage. He’s the force behind “Family Day,” an anti-gay rally organized at the Circus Maximus here Saturday.

That’s false. The square and those alternating on stage used gentle tones, and they carefully selected even-tempered speakers. But they carried the message of an already declared war against any form of family different from their own, including homosexuals who, “for Heaven’s sake, not to discriminate at all, but let’s not call them the equivalent of family and let’s keep them away from children.”

It’s also a war against those who don’t think like them. Their explicit warning was aimed mainly at Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (“Do not demolish the family”) and to the politicians preparing to debate the Cirinnà bill in the Senate. Civil unions “must be canceled, and that’s that,” Gandolfini said. “We will remember those who will adopt the petitions of this square and those who will put them under the heels.”

One thing must be said: What we saw Saturday at the Circus Maximus was not a place for old people. Not that they were missing, but when going around the field overlooking the Palatine Hill, it is impossible not to notice the large number of young people. Young and very young, pushed in baby carriages by moms and dads happy to be there, but also older boys and girls, who rolled up tobacco cigarettes lying on large tarps widened on the wet lawn, the sun hiding behind clouds.

The people of Family Day responded massively to the invitation to come to Rome. Not the 2 million people Gandolfini claimed, and not even the million promised on Friday, but around 200,000 or 300,000. They hope to repeat the coup of eight years ago when, with a similar event, they managed to sink the DICO bill, a very watered-down version of civil unions that failed in 2007.

Many of the attendees traveled all night, coming from cities like Milan and Naples, but mostly from small towns, where the priest is as prominent as the mayor and the police sergeant.

Entering the Circus Maximus, men waited with signs bearing the stylized silhouettes of two men and two women with the words “Wrong is wrong.” Volunteers advised them, “You have to raise them when you are told to,” but they didn’t need to be encouraged. There was not a shortage of signs: “Children are not a right.” “Civil unions are a Trojan horse” (to gay marriage). “No to uterus surrogacy.” The most truculent banner, and it’s a pity that no one had it removed, said: “No to gaystapo” (sic). Yes, this is about love.

They refused to be labeled as conservative. But the impression was of stepping back in time. One of the speakers, apparently going for laughs, said, “In the secrecy of the polling booth God sees you — Stalin doesn’t,” a reference to a 1948 anti-left campaign slogan.

“Do I feel modern? No, but it’s not my problem, I prefer to be myself,” says Sara, 29, who came from Bergamo, near Milan, with a group of friends. Three buses full of young “Catholics but also Protestants and non-religious.” And why did you decide to come to Rome? “Because it’s the only way I can make it clear that I do not support this Cirinnà bill. I do not think it is necessary. And I do not think it is necessary to recognize rights such as adoption. Do I have gay friends? Yes, and some of them think like me.”

Sara is one of the few who agree to talk. Many, instead, prefer not to answer any questions, as advised by the organization: “This prevents manipulation.”

More than anything, the people of Family Day seem to need to be reassured that their concept of family is the only one possible. The very idea that there can be one composed of people of the same sex is beyond belief.

What is most scary is the idea of two gay parents. From the stage, they presented a video in which a gay couple on a website is looking for a donor to have a child through surrogacy. “I do not want a blonde one, but rather a brunette like my sister,” says one. Then the shot moves to a delivery room, where an Indian woman is about to give birth. A voice in the background says, “Look how white the child is, even though she’s Indian.” Then, the baby is taken away. “Slavery still exists,” warns the video, whose scientific credibility, of course, is mentioned nowhere. There were also pamphlets with stories like “Walt Heyer: male to female and back again …” and Luca who “was gay … but now he’s with her.” A happy ending, thank goodness.

It’s time to close. The presenter brought Gandolfini back on stage for the final speech. “If civil unions are allowed to be family, there will be confusion and there will be no family anymore, but changeable and confused patterns, and the victims will be our children. We must be very careful when destructive laws are passed,” argues the neurosurgeon, who thinks that so many evils of his country are due to the fact that “Italy has apostatized the Judeo-Christian roots of Europe.”

The event ended with the notes of Puccini’s “Nessun dorma,” or “No One Sleeps.” After certain speeches, sleep wasn’t out of the question.