ROME (Reuters) - Italian police detained two gay men for kissing outside the Colosseum and accused them of "lewd conduct", sparking howls of protest on Friday from rights groups and calls for an apology from a government minister.
The incident took place late on Thursday, when the men, aged 27 and 28, were taken to a police station for several hours before being released, according to gay rights group Arcigay.
Arcigay accused the police of discrimination and called on homosexuals to gather near the Colosseum on Aug. 2 for a protest "kiss".
Police denied they were homophobic. "It's not an issue of homosexuality, but of legality," said Col. Alessandro Casarsa.
"Faced with an obvious violation of the norms that govern a place visited by thousands of people, the two were written up and let go."
Italy's Health Minister Livia Turco expressed embarrassment over the episode, saying "things like this certainly don't happen in a normal country".
"I hope that these boys are given an apology because this was a bit excessive," she said.