Elton John ignites Italy's surrogacy debate

Elton John special guest of Sanremo Music Festival in Italy.

The confirmation of British pop star Elton John as a special guest of Italy's upcoming Sanremo Music Festival comes as the Italian parliament debates an extremely divisive civil unions bill.

The arrival of the award-winning musician who, along with husband David Furnish, has two young children born using a surrogate mother, has ignited an already heated debate over proposed legislation for gay civil unions, including the right of same-sex couples to adoption and surrogacy.

Known as the Cirinna Law after its author, the centre-left Partito Democratico senator Monica Cirinna, the bill is being trumpeted by the government of Italian premier Matteo Renzi as a case of Italy catching up with the rest of Europe.

However it faces fierce opposition from the Catholic Church as well as politicians across the board and has led to large-scale demonstrations from both liberal and conservative camps, culminating in the upcoming Family Day on 30 January. Planned by opponents of the bill, organisers say they expect one million people to attend the event at the Circus Maximus on Saturday.

FAMILY DAY

Sir Elton John's impending arrival in Italy has attracted the ire of the right-wing politician and deputy senate leader Maurizio Gasparri, who described the singer as “vile” for his use of surrogate mothers.

What he did was the selfishness of a rich, arrogant man who exploited other people's desperation,” ranted the outspoken politician, echoing recent comments by Italian interior minister Angelino Alfano who said that surrogate parents should be treated the same as sex offenders.

Last June the European Court of Human Rights condemned Italy for failing to introduce a law governing civil unions, stating that there was no existing legislation to allow same-sex partners to share the same key rights as partners of different sexes, namely adoption, shared pension benefits, and tax breaks.

Elton John will perform his new single Blue Wonderful at the 66th edition of the annual Italian song contest which takes place at the Ariston Theatre in Sanremo from 9-13 February. His new album Wonderful Crazy Night – his 33rd album – will be released worldwide on 5 February.

The British singer played in Rome last July, at the Baths of Caracalla, a stone's throw from the Family Day stage at the Circus Maximus.