Italian nominee denied EU post after calling homosexuality a sin

Monday, October 11th 2004, 7:54 pm
By: News On 6

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) _ Italy's nominee to become the European Union's Justice and Home Affairs commissioner failed on Monday to win the backing of the European Parliament's Justice Committee, days after testifying that he considers homosexuality a sin.

The panel narrowly failed to endorse Rocco Buttiglione, who is currently Italy's European Affairs minister, said Jean-Louis Bourlanges, chairman of the Justice Committee.

The committee voted 27-26 not to recommend Buttiglione, officials said.

The vote caused a political storm in Italy, with politicians on the right coming to Buttiglione's defense and many on the left attacking the government's choice of candidate.

During a confirmation hearing last week, Buttiglione, who is close to the Vatican, faced a barrage of hostile questions over his conservative views. He vowed to defend the rights of gays but told the Justice and Home Affairs Committee he considered homosexuality a sin.

In the past two weeks, the European Parliament held confirmation hearings for 25 men and women who have been named by their governments to serve on the next EU Executive Commission, which begins work Nov. 1 under incoming Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, the former Portuguese prime minister.

The Justice Committee's rejection does not jeopardize the incoming commission, but if it is approved by parliamentary leaders it will force Barroso into a tight spot: he would either have to drop Buttiglione and embarrass the Italian government or accept him as EU commissioner despite misgivings in the parliament. He could also move him to a less contentious post.

Under EU rules, the 732-member parliament cannot reject individual candidates, only the entire incoming commission.

Buttiglione is the only commissioner-designate to be rejected by an EU assembly panel so far.

In last week's hearing, legislators pushed him to reveal his conservative religious views, which many fear could influence his job in drafting anti-discrimination rules.

``I may think that homosexuality is a sin, and this has no effect on politics, unless I say that homosexuality is a crime,'' Buttiglione said.

Sergio Lo Giudice, president of the Italian gay rights group Arcigay, said the decision showed the EU's strong commitment to human rights and its independence from the Roman Catholic Church.

``We are pleased and reassured by the decision. The Vatican's backyard ends at the Alps,'' he told the ANSA news agency.