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Donatella Versace slams Italian government's anti-gay policies from La Scala stage

Milan -

Donatella Versace slammed the Italian government for what she described as anti-gay policies in a heartfelt and personal speech that referenced her late brother, Gianni Versace, while receiving a fashion award this weekend.

"Our government is trying to take away people's rights to live as they wish," Versace said in a speech Sunday night, citing in particular a government policy that allows only the biological parent in same-sex couples to be officially recognized as the parent. "They are restricting our freedoms," she said.

"We must all fight for freedom, in a time that still sees trans people suffering terrible violence, a time when children of same-sex couples are not considered their children, a time when minority voices are attacked by new laws," Versace said.

The speech received a standing ovation from a fashion crowd at La Scala, where Versace received a humanitarian award.

Gay rights activists praised her for clearly challenging the government's actions, but called on the entire fashion community to do more.

"Donatella Versace was the first person in Italy to be so clear and explicit in the face of the government's homophobic politics," said Franco Grillini, a longtime gay rights activist. "She is one of the most important names in fashion, and I invite others to follow her example."

Besides blocking recognition of children of same-sex couples, Premier Giorgia Meloni's right-wing government is pushing through legislation that would ban seeking a surrogate abroad, making it punishable with prison terms and stiff penalties. A 2004 law already banned surrogacy within Italy.

Italy's Gay Party also praised Versace's support and called on her to back their campaign to get a a referendum on gay marriage on the Italian ballot.

"Donatella Versace's declaration is important (...) She made clear how this government is diminishing freedoms and rights for the LGBTQ community," said Fabrizio Marrazzo, spokesman for the Gay Party and the referendum for egalitarian marriage. "We ask her to support us, in particular the campaign to make marriage for lesbians, gays and trans people the same as for everyone else."

They hope to begin gathering signatures in January, aware that "this parliamentary majority does not want to give us rights." Italy approved same-sex civil unions in 2016, the last major Western country to do so.

Versace, who has been creative director of the fashion house founded by her brother since his 1997 murder, was accompanied to the awards by Alessandro Zan, the Democratic Party lawmaker who drafted legislation expanding anti -discrimination protections to the LGBTQ community. The legislation was stalled even before the Meloni government took office.

In a touching moment, Versace also recalled the day her brother Gianni came out to her.

"I was 11 years old when my brother Gianni told me he was gay. For me it changed nothing. I loved him and I didn't care who he loved," she told the crowd. Top Stories

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