Academic journal article Italian Sociological Review

Watching over the Sacred Boundaries of the Family. Study on the Standing Sentinels and Cultural Resistance to LGBT Rights

Academic journal article Italian Sociological Review

Watching over the Sacred Boundaries of the Family. Study on the Standing Sentinels and Cultural Resistance to LGBT Rights

Article excerpt

1.Introduction

This study examines some of the cultural assumptions underlying the opposition to the social and legal recognition of homosexual families, which seem to be shared by social movements declaring themselves both Catholic and non-denominational. The latter include the Standing Sentinels ("Sentinelle in Piedi"), a protest movement that came into being to counter the approval of the Scalfarotto Bill, i.e. the proposal to extend the Mancino-Reale law to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity1. The movement argues that, under the pretext of protecting the homosexual community from homophobia, the bill actually aims to introduce the "crime of opinion" to eliminate any opposition to the recognition of homosexual families and adoptions.

Although the Standing Sentinels represent the case that started the study, as it deepened and took a broader view of the phenomenon, they steadily went on to occupy the position of one of the many nodes of a larger network where similar conceptions of the family, homosexuality, the individual and society circulate, with their connection also being shown by websites of groups, associations, blogs and publications. The research takes as its starting point the phenomenon of the Standing Sentinels but also relates to the more general context of which they are an example.

Importance of the phenomenon

According to data of the ISTAT (Italian National Institute of Statistics), 25.2% of Italians agree very much or quite agree with the statement: "homosexuality is an illness"; 27% with the statement: "homosexuality is immoral"; 25.2% with the statement "homosexuality is a threat for the family"; 37.2% do not agree very much or at all with the statement: "it is fair that a homosexual couple who live together, although not married, can have by law the same rights as a married couple"; 56.1% agree a little or not at all with the statement: "it is fair that a homosexual couple can get married, if they wish". 76.6% agree a little or not at all with the statement: "it is fair that a couple of lesbians can adopt a child", which rises to 80.6% if the couple is made up of male homosexuals (ISTAT, 2011).

The phenomenon analysed in these pages cannot be circumscribed to a small subculture but expresses positions agreed with by the Catholic Church, the national newspaper Avvenire, the magazine Tempi and gains the sympathy of political right-wing groups. On the basis of these positions, a national educational project by the UNAR (National Anti-Racial Discrimination Office), "Educating on diversity at school", was blocked2. Furthermore, it has an international scope as it follows the French group which inspired it, namely the movement of Les Veilleurs Debout, in its motivation, forms and objectives.

Objectives and method

The main goal of the research is to understand the point of view of the actors, identifying themes and meanings of their narration of reality through an analysis of the texts published on the website of the Standing Sentinels, the "netnographic" visits to their Facebook page and various incursions to "friendly sites" this links to (for example "www.notizieprovita.it", "www.culturacattolica.it", "www.uccronline.it", "www.lanuovabq.it", "www.lacrocequotidiano.it", "www.tempi.it" and "www.avvenire.it"), as well as the consultation of texts that have similar views on the same subjects3.

The texts on the site "www.sentinelleinpiedi.it" were made up, on 10 February 2015, of 1 article to introduce themselves ("Who the Sentinels are"), 16 articles published in the Blog (including many press releases) and 6 accounts by Sentinels.

The analysis presented is supported by Atlas.ti and TXM software4, concerns texts published on the Internet and therefore are not necessarily representative of what the participants in the protests think; however, it can be hypothesized that these two aspects are not contradictory.

The paper is organized as follows: after a description of the phenomenon, the framework of the actors is presented, going into the subject of homosexuality in greater depth to conclude with a theoretical interpretation based on some sociological categories (Berger & Luckmann, 1969), which can in their turn be traced back to the explanatory category of "sacred". …

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