Being gay is a sin, says EU's justice chief

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The Independent Online

Italy's new European commissioner for justice introduced himself to the parliament in Brussels yesterday by describing homosexuality as a sin and defending calls for asylum camps in north Africa. But Rocco Buttiglione promised that his personal beliefs would not affect the way he does his job.

Italy's new European commissioner for justice introduced himself to the parliament in Brussels yesterday by describing homosexuality as a sin and defending calls for asylum camps in north Africa. But Rocco Buttiglione promised that his personal beliefs would not affect the way he does his job.

Mr Buttiglione, the commissioner-designate for justice and home affairs, and a close friend of Pope John Paul II, told MEPs: "I may think that homosexuality is a sin; this has no effect on politics unless I say that homosexuality is a crime."

He added: "The rights of homosexuals should be defended on the same basis as the rights of all other European citizens. I would not accept the idea that homosexuals are a category apart."

Mr Buttliglione is well-known in Italy for his strong religious views and is reputed to have learnt Polish in order to read the Pope's works in the original. Yesterday he defended the traditional notion of heterosexual marriage with men in the role of protector of women.

The Labour MEP Michael Cashman said: "Some of the things he said about homosexuals are very worrying. His definition of marriage was very narrow." The Labour MEP Claude Moraes, argued that the nomination of Mr Buttiglione was a "retrograde step" and an "abrupt and brutal end to the current regime in the Commission on questions of civil liberties, migration, protection of minorities and respect for women".

Mr Buttiglione won backing from centre-right MEPs over the plan for asylum centres in north Africa, and said he did not oppose an initiative to agree lists of safe countries to which asylum-seekers can be deported. The idea of setting up processing centres outside the EU is being pushed by Germany and Italy, backed by the UK.

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