The public health department in the city of La Spezia in the Italian region of Liguria decided to give preference to the LGBT community in accessing vaccines against COVID-19.
As a result, gay people found themselves ahead of others in the line for the vaccine, together in a group with drug addicts and sex workers. Those who took the decision expected praise from LGBT circles for being gay friendly.
Instead, they have been castigated for being homophobic.
The case illustrates the fraught environment that even health authorities operate in the fight against the coronavirus while at the same time seeking to cater to a variety of identity groups.
Italy’s leftist Democratic Party have called the scheme shameful and the governor of the region has demanded an investigation. Some organizations have declared that they will take the issue to court, regarding the practice as an act of discrimination based on sexual orientation which placed LGBT people in the same bracket as drug addicts and prostitutes.
The health department in La Spezia has defended itself arguing that the health ministry itself has grouped LGBT people together with others most at-risk for certain types of infections such as HIV or HCV. The health ministry in turn explained that the form in question was for screening of blood donors.
The mistake the health department in La Spezia made was to apply the procedure for blood donors to its vaccination program against COVID-19. This was clearly a mistake since COVID infections have nothing to do with sexually transmitted diseases. It appears that it was not a case of homophobia, but rather an attempt to favor gay people in who gets access to vaccination first.
The incident in La Spezia shows how thin the line is between being pro-LGBT and being declared a homophobe. Anyone looking to support or protect the LGBT community have to be very careful because one wrong move could make you a newspaper headline.