Article 3

2019-12-23 Stefano Basaglia

Ideas First, Regardless of Gender

On December 11 of this year, Marta Cartabia was elected president of the Italian Constitutional Court. During the press conference held after her election, she expressly stated that being a woman "was not a secondary aspect," that her election represents a "historic step," that she "broke the glass ceiling," and that her female colleagues told her "your election is our election."[1]

The media and the political world, on both the right and the left, conservatives and progressives, all celebrated the election of the first woman president of the Constitutional Court, stressing that the event represents a sign of progress for Italy. Some then focused attention on her "technical competence" and her "professional path" (Marta Cartabia is full professor of Constitutional Law at the Bicocca University of Milan).[2] Others cited her "family status" (she is married and has three children) and her hobbies: we were told she likes jogging, trekking, loves the mountains and classical and rock music (the Beatles and metal).[3] Finally, some discussed her "Catholic education" and asked her if and how this education could be a constraint or an opportunity. She responded by saying "when judges enter their chambers they do so with their whole person, their experiences, thoughts, desires, and professional competence," and that the Constitution is not "indifferent" with respect to religions, but "equidistant." She also said that the wealth of the composition of the Court - we would say its "diversity" - and the multiple points of view represent an aspect that guarantees the body's neutrality.

The reference to her education and points of view leads us to observe that one aspect has been neglected, that is, what are the newly-elected president's points of view and ideas? Are they progressive or conservative? Is she in favor of the extension of civil rights? What is her view on abortion, end-of-life, and the rights of LGBT citizens and families? The only people who have investigated these aspects are some representatives of the Italian LGBT community.[4] In particular, they pointed out an article[5] that the president wrote in 2011 commenting on a decision by the State of New York to introduce equality of marriage between persons of the same sex. The title of the article was "Marriage at all Costs; the Demand for False Rights," and the article read: "This author does not celebrate this decision. […] There are essentially two arguments used in the debate on homosexual marriage. The first: if marriage is a right, then everyone must be free to marry whoever they want, with no conditions. The second: preventing marriage of homosexuals is discrimination. […] The second is the result of a typical difficulty of our time, that tends to confuse differentiation and discrimination. It is true that in the past there were many laws and social customs that were harsh and inhospitable towards homosexuals, if not ruthlessly discriminatory. […] However, discriminating is different than maintaining distinctions: not every differentiation is discrimination. Is keeping marriage and the family on a separate level than other forms of cohabitation discrimination, or making a distinction?"

So we see that the new president does not have progressive ideas regarding the rights of LGBT citizens and is against equal marriage, which she considers contrary to the Constitution of the Italian Republic. The progressivism of her election is thus based only on her identity as a woman and not on her ideas, without questioning her excellent technical preparation. Reasoning this way, however, can be dangerous, and this election pushes us to think about the relationship between competence, identity, and ideas. Those who deal with diversity management should be in favor of expanding civil rights and progress, and should see progress in ideas and actions, not in identity per se, in a triangulation between competence, identity, and ideas. The risk of this type of situation, where we see only identity (being the first woman to become president) is to prefer symbolic meaning to real meaning, and to make identity a fetish that feeds pink washing strategies. Many heterosexual women and men will be happy with this election. Many homosexual men and women could be worried, in particular in a country such as Italy where equality of marriage does not yet exist, but we have had to settle for civil unions.

In conclusion, with the election of Marta Cartabia we have taken a step forward on the front of female representation in the centers of power. However, those who believe in progress may also see it as a step backwards. It would have been better to take a step forward: combining female representation with progressivism on the level of civil rights: more women and more rights, for the majority and for minorities. Marta Cartabia cited the positive example of the appointment of Sanna Marin as the Prime Minister of Finland, a woman who is 34 years old and the child of two mothers, and thus of a rainbow family, one of the many types of families that exist. The new Finnish Prime Minister has said "I've never thought about my age and my gender, I think of the reasons why I am in politics and why we earned the trust of the voters."[6] Indeed, people should be judged based on their ideas, and not their gender. Progress takes place thanks to progressive ideas, regardless of the gender that represents them.

[1] For the video of the speech see this link

[5] "Matrimonio a ogni costo, la pretesa dei falsi diritti,", June 28, 2011.