Italy swim star’s nod to girlfriend hailed as gay first

Open water swimming star Rachele Bruni was hailed on Wednesday as the first Italian athlete to publicly declare her homosexuality.

Italy swim star's nod to girlfriend hailed as gay first
Rachele Bruni dedicated her medal to her family, her coach and her girlfriend Diletta Faina. Photo: Leon Neal/AFP

Bruni, who won silver in the 10km swim in Rio on Monday, dedicated her medal to her family, her coach and her girlfriend Diletta Faina.

Italian media and gay rights groups said it was a landmark moment for a country which has been slower to recognise same sex relationships than other Western states.

La Reppublica reported that Bruni was the first Italian sportsman or woman to acknowledge her sexuality, although it is possible other sports figures may have come out to friends and family without attracting media coverage.

Bruni, 25, said her statement had not been a planned coming out.

“I've always lived my sexuality naturally, without any anxiety,” she told La Reppublica.

“There was never any need for me to come out. My friends, my relatives, my swimming teammates, everyone knew. There was no need to put up posters.”

Gabriele Piazzoni, the leader of Italy's biggest gay rights group Arcigay, said Bruni's message to her girlfriend had “incredible force”.

“In sporting and media terms it is very, very important,” he said. “We are beginning to see the fruits of years of battle…”

Piazzoni said he hoped Bruni's example would help break down taboos in the country's biggest sport, football.

“It is not credible that there are no gay Italian footballers. The next objective has to be to break down the wall of fear in football, which millions of kids play in what should be an inclusive environment.”

Legislation allowing gay civil unions in Italy only took effect last month, making the country the last in Western Europe to legally recognise same-sex relationships.


Germany to compensate gay soldiers who faced discrimination

Chancellor Angela Merkel's government on Wednesday agreed a draft bill that would compensate gay soldiers who faced discrimination in the armed forces between 1955 and 2000.

Germany to compensate gay soldiers who faced discrimination
A German flag is sewed to the uniform of a Bundeswehr soldier in Dresden. Photo: DPA

Under the proposed law, which needs to be approved by parliament, soldiers
who were convicted by military courts for being gay, demoted or who otherwise
saw their careers damaged because of their sexual orientation, would receive a
“symbolic amount” of €3,000.

“We cannot erase the suffering inflicted upon these people,” Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told the RND newspaper group. “But we want
to send a signal” and “turn the page on a dark chapter in the history of the
armed forces”, she said.

The compensation would apply to soldiers from the Bundeswehr, which was
created in West Germany in 1955, and to troops from former East Germany's
National People's Army, founded in 1956.

READ ALSO: More Germans identify as LGBT than in rest of Europe

The defence ministry estimates that about 1,000 people would be eligible
for a payout.

Military court judgments against soldiers for engaging in consensual gay sex acts would also be quashed under the draft bill.

It took until 1969 for homosexuality to be decriminalised in West Germany, but discrimination against gay service people continued for much longer, including after Germany was reunified in 1990.

Gay soldiers could expect to be overlooked for promotions or removed from positions of responsibility, with senior officers often deeming them a “security risk” or a bad example to others.

That ended with a law change in 2000 that officially protected gay, lesbian
and bisexual people from discrimination in the armed forces.