'Darwin' docu causes stir in Italy


FLORENCE, Italy -- A documentary aired by Italian broadcaster Mediaset is starting a high-visibility debate in Italy that some in the media speculate could lead to anti-homophobia laws in one of the last Western European countries without them.

The Canale 5 documentary "Ciao Darwin!" -- which examines the lives of heterosexuals and homosexuals -- included a segment based on the life of Alberto Ruggin, a gay 20-year-old from the northern Italian city of Padua, who had previously kept his sexuality secret.

After the documentary aired last week, Ruggin said he faced persecution in his community, including being expelled from his church choir by the parish priest, who Ruggin said told him he was "disgusted" by Ruggin's revelation.

"I tried to tell him that real Christians respect everyone," Ruggin was quoted as saying in the local press. "He criticized me for not admitting my sexuality earlier and refused to listen. I think he is afraid of what people might say about me."

The controversy has stirred quite a debate in Italy, where both religious groups and gay rights organizations say the case shows the need for change. But much of the calls seem to be focused on the need for a new set of laws to guard against prejudices based on sexual preference, with reports indicating that parliament could start debate on such a measure starting next year.