A large Catholic fair in Italy has banned a priest from holding talks, after he claimed gay couples were more likely to die from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases as well as to commit suicide than heterosexuals.
The measure was taken against Giorgio Carbone, a Dominican father who was accused of twisting the results of a scientific study to argue that gay marriage is bad for health while speaking at the Communion and Liberation (CL) Meeting for Friendship among Peoples in the seaside resort of Rimini.
"A study analysing the deceased population in Denmark ... infers that heterosexual couples are infinitely less exposed at cardiovascular, respiratory, suicide, attempted suicide and AIDS risks than same-sex couples," he told an audience. "This is a real fact. It's important to know about these data that are usually concealed."
A video of the speech was posted online, triggering a furious reaction from the LGBT community and the secular society, with netizens variously labelling the priest as a "bigot" and a "buffoon". It soon emerged that the conclusions of the 2013 study cited by Carbone were quite different from those suggested by the priest.
The paper published in the International Journal of Epidemiology in fact found that since same-sex marriage was introduced in Denmark in 1989, the mortality rate of married homosexual dropped significantly, particularly so for men.
"Among men in Denmark, it is more dangerous to be unmarried or divorced than to be married to another man," lead author Dr Morten Frisch told Live Science as the study was released.
As controversy raged in Italy, Meeting organisers suspended the Dominican Order stand, which worked as a platform for Carbone to voice his view, from hosting any further talks and debates.
A Meeting spokeswoman told IBTimes UK the measure was taken to avoid schedule clashes with official happenings.
She explained that independent stands hosted by the fair, such as that held by the Dominican Order, were not allowed to hold debates without previously agreeing on the subject matter, leaving it unclear how Carbone had been able to make his remarks.
Meeting is an open forum with religious overtones hosting high-profile speakers, which included in the past Tony Blair and Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi, events organised every year by CL, a lay movement within the Catholic Church.
The controversy came as the country is engaged in a heated debate over same-sex marriage after the government said it will introduce a law on civil unions. Italy is currently the only country in Western Europe where any form of gay marriage is not regulated and thus illegal.