Italian law-makers have expressed outrage over the addition of two dolls representing a gay couple into a nativity scene in Parliament. The dolls were placed among the shepherds and held a sign promoting gay rights.

The female dolls were added by Bruno Mellano and Donatella Porretti, members of the left-wing Radical Party, in order to show support for the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Italy.

The parliamentarians were quoted by Italian media as saying that they also wanted to reflect the fact that gay people were around in the time of Jesus.

The dolls were removed after a few minutes, but the protest nevertheless led to a strong reaction from more conservative politicians, who called for the two members of Parliament to be censured.

Right-wing parties criticised the nativity display as “vulgar and unacceptable” and a “pure attack against the religion practiced by the majority of Italians”.

The Vatican also slammed the protest as “a useless provocation against the nativity of the Chamber of Deputies that hurts us as Christians and as citizens of this country.”

Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi came into power in April with a campaign promise to give same-sex couples marriage rights. He is under increasing pressure to make good on the promise.

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