Article 3

2023-03-23 Stefano Basaglia

LGBTQI+ Diversity: When the Going Gets Tough, What Do Businesses Do?

After the initial months of the actions of the new right-wing government and parliamentary majority, the road seems clear: the organizational environment taking hold will be increasingly hostile to issues of diversity and inclusion. Once again, it is striking that businesses are absent in the debate. And we must ask where the social responsibility trumpeted during LGBTQI+ pride month or other occasions for visibility has gone.


The political and legal context represents two important dimensions of the organizational environment, i.e. the framework in which organizations act. Italy saw an important political change after the elections of 25 September 2022. For the first time in the history of the Republic, an extreme right party earned the relative majority of votes, and due to this result, the national chair of this party also became the Prime Minister. The presence of a right-wing government and parliamentary majority in Italy represents a challenge for the issues of diversity and inclusion. We had already dealt with this issue in October 2022 immediately after the elections.[1] Today we can expand on those preliminary considerations.


Among all of the questions of diversity most at risk today, there is that of the LGBTQI+ community and ethnic-cultural diversity. Let us focus on the former. In recent weeks a series of statements and decisions have provided an idea of the type of country the extreme right has in mind. In a television interview, the President of the Italian Senate (and president of the national assembly of the “Brothers of Italy” party), in response to the question “how would you react if you had a child who confessed to being homosexual”, answered: “I would be sorry to hear the news. Because I believe that a person like me, heterosexual, wants to have a child who resembles him. But if it happens, so be it. It would be as if he were a fan of Milan soccer.”[2] The President of the Senate does not like those who are different from him, and considers sexual identity the same as soccer fandom. Perhaps we need to update Article 3 of the constitution and anti-discrimination laws to contemplate this category. The lyricist Mogol was appointed advisor for popular culture by the Ministry of Culture. Commenting on the last Sanremo Festival, he said:[3]Kisses on the mouth between men? I have nothing against homosexuals at all, but against this promotion of homosexuality. I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings, but that is a stage for promoting music, not effects that seek television ratings while forgetting the promotion of popular culture.” How many kisses between heterosexuals are shown in the media? Are we able to count them? Showing diversity, and possibly its ordinariness, contributes to fighting the stigma. It does not mean promoting, but depicting what exists.


On 14 March 2023, the Commission on European Union Policies of the Italian Senate approved a resolution, submitted by a representative of the “Brothers of Italy” party, that rejected the proposal for a European regulation to recognize the rights of children of homosexual couples and the adoption of a European certificate of filiation.[4] The Ministry of the Interior, in January 2023, issued a circular addressed to the prefects directing them to prohibit mayors from registering the certificates of children born of two fathers abroad. In March 2023, the prefect of Milan not only adopted the circular from the Ministry (prohibition to register the certificates of children of two fathers), but also extended it to children born of two mothers in Italy and requested an opinion from the State Bar for the children of two mothers born abroad.[5] The Senate’s rejection of the European Regulation and the indications from the prefecture of Milan were the spark that led to the organization of a demonstration to protest against the right-wing government and parliamentary majority that took place in Milan, in Piazza della Scala, on Saturday, March 18, in which the new secretary of the main opposition party participated. The vice-president of the Chamber of Deputies, also a representative of Brothers of Italy, said that LGBTQI+ families “pass off children born through surrogate mothers as their children.[6] The use of the term “pass off” was amply criticized by many media. It is a sign of the absolute lack of the basics of any sort of inclusive language. We could continue with the statements and examples, but the path is clear: the organizational environment taking hold will be increasingly hostile to the issues of diversity and inclusion.


In this debate, it is striking once again that businesses are absent. When the going gets tough, businesses decide, in the best of cases, not to expose themselves. This is behavior that we already noted when the Zan bill failed in November 2021.[7] It is also not true that these issues do not affect the functioning of organizations: the legal recognition of homosexual families also regards the requests for permits, leave, and so on. The impact, though, remains confined to the area of management of human resources. The doubt arises that beyond the statements, human resources are not so central. It seems that businesses intervene only when directly economic interests are in play, or when the game is already up (as in the case of the approval of the law on Civil Unions).[8] Moreover, businesses are “pro-government” by definition, and to say it with Manzoni’s Don Abbondio, it is difficult to give courage to those who don’t have it. Perhaps it is not even right to ask businesses to go outside of their economic-financial perimeter. If this is true, though, then the castle of social responsibility also falls apart.


The risk is that through waves of rhetoric, the policies in favor of diversity and LGBTQI+ inclusion that were so amply trumpeted during the LGBTQI+ month will fade away. The Italian case tells us that the expansion of rights still primarily depends on organizations active in the field of social movements and the presence of political parties that make these rights an important part of their identity. For those interested in diversity and inclusion in businesses, it should be clear where to look: we are not in the night in which all cows are black. Some are, others are not.


Foto / makaule