Berlusconi: Better to love women than gays

Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi gestures while speaking during a media conference at an EU summit in Brussels on Friday, Oct. 29, 2010. EU leaders on Friday agreed on tougher rules for spendthrift nations whose overspending threatens Europe's single currency and risks triggering a debt crisis. (AP Photo/Yves Logghe)
Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi gestures while speaking during a media conference at an EU summit in Brussels on Friday, Oct. 29, 2010. EU leaders on Friday agreed on tougher rules for spendthrift nations whose overspending threatens Europe's single currency and risks triggering a debt crisis. (AP Photo/Yves Logghe) (Yves Logghe - AP)
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By NICOLE WINFIELD
The Associated Press
Tuesday, November 2, 2010; 4:55 PM

ROME -- Premier Silvio Berlusconi dismissed calls Tuesday to resign over his involvement with an underage Moroccan runaway - and even created a new uproar by claiming it was better to love beautiful girls than gays.

His comments sparked outrage from gay rights groups and fueled new calls for him to step down.

Opposition politicians have charged that Berlusconi abused his office by calling Milan police in May when the then-17-year-old runaway nicknamed Ruby was detained for alleged theft. Newspapers have reported that Berlusconi told police that a local party official would take custody of the girl, who had visited Berlusconi's Milan villa on at least one occasion.

Even center-right commentators in Berlusconi's family-owned newspapers have criticized him for intervening in a possible criminal case. Berlusconi's now-estranged ally, Gianfranco Fini, said his antics had embarrassed the country.

But Berlusconi again defended his lifestyle and fondness for young women, telling a trade fair in Milan on Tuesday it was "better to be passionate about a beautiful girl than a gay."

Gay rights group Arcigay demanded an apology for causing offense to both women and gays. Later, about two dozen people holding signs with a photo of Berlusconi and denouncing homophobia demonstrated across the street from the premier's office.

The premier's comments "represent a dangerous incitement to prejudice and helps legitimize discrimination, injustice and suffering," Arcigay president Paolo Pantane wrote in a letter to Berlusconi's minister for equal opportunity, Mara Carfagna.

In response, Carfagna defended Berlusconi's record on anti-discrimination measures and said he had just been joking.

"(He) absolutely never intended to offend women or homosexuals," she said.

Another prominent supporter, Daniela Santanche, a government undersecretary, also rallied to the premier's defense, saying there was nothing disturbing in his comment.

After noting that she "esteems homosexuals," Santanche said: "I am sure that all Italian parents hope to have heterosexual children."

She added that "the hope of every mother is to some day become a grandmother and have their children avoid the problems of a life inherent in the homosexual condition," the Italian news agency ANSA quoted her as saying.


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