Italian politician makes anti-gay gaffe
Rome - A right-wing Italian deputy mayor has found himself at the centre of a political storm after his anti-gay slurs against a left-wing governor provoked widespread outrage - and a rebuke from his own party.
And much of the drama has been played out on the Facebook pages of the politicians involved.
Giuseppe Ripa, deputy mayor of the southern town of Lecce, launched his attack on Nichi Vendola, the governor of Apulia, in a posting on Facebook.
"In nature, there exist only two types human beings: The man and the woman," he wrote.
The rest, he said, were psychiatric cases apt for psychoanalytic treatment, said Ripa, a member of Silvio Berlsuconi's People of Freedom party.
Lecce's mayor, Paolo Perrone, was quick to distance himself from the remarks.
"I like to practice politics by debating with my adversaries on the issues, not on the sexual preferences of this or that person, which are a matter of one's private life," he wrote in his own Facebook posting.
But Ripa continued his attacks, describing Vendola as "abnormal".
Vendola, a member of the left-wing Democratic Party and in the past a gay rights activist, has refused to respond to the attacks.
But deputy governor Loredana Capone sprang to his defence in postings on her Facebook page, denouncing the "homophobic junta" running Lecce.
The head of Italy's gay rights group Arcigay - of which Vendola has been an active member - also denounced Ripa's remarks.
"Nobody in public office can use it as a platform for promoting hate and discrimination," said Paolo Patane.
Democratic Party deputy Paola Concia also denounced the attacks, which she described as "vulgar and offensive".
Ripa's People of Freedom party also condemned his comments "without reserve".
"It is is urgent to put in place a law that punishes such behaviour," said Raffaele Lauro, a senator with the party.
Italy does not recognise homosexual partners and there is no law against homophobia.