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Italian Broadcaster Rai Censors Gay Sex Scene in ‘HTGAWM,’ Shonda Rhimes & Cast Respond

ROME — ABC’s “How to Get Away With Murder” is sparking a rallying cry for gay rights in Italy and forcing state broadcaster Rai to change what critics charge are its homophobic ways.

Rai, which is the country’s top free-TV service, came under fire over the weekend after the show’s pilot episode aired in primetime on its Rai 2 channel Friday evening. Viewers noticed that a sex scene between Connor (Jack Falahee) and Oliver (Conrad Riamora) in a flashback cutaway had been excised.

The “HTGAWM” episode had previously aired unedited for Italians on paybox Sky Italia’s Fox platform.

An outcry rapidly arose in Italy on Twitter, reaching “HTGAWM showrunner Pete Nowalk, who tweeted that he was “shocked and disappointed,” then posted a clip of the unedited scene.

Later, when Rai aired the original version of the episode with the sex scene intact, Nowalk tweeted: “Good news, thanks to all the fans for making this happen,” with the hashtag #LoveIsLoveIsLove.

The show’s executive producer Shonda Rhimes tweeted that “Censorship of any love is inexcusable.”

Star Falahee also took to Twitter, asking, “Audiences in Italia aren’t ready for real life?”

It wasn’t just the “HTGAWM” team that expressed their dismay at Rai’s editing.

“They censored love between two male characters, while leaving all the heterosexual love scenes uncut,” complained gay-rights advocate Mario Mieli, who called for the issue to be taken up in parliament.

“In a country which after years of wait recently passed a minimal system of rights for homosexual couples we learn that public service [TV] is practicing homophobic surgical censorship,” he added.

Rai 2 director Ilaria Dallatana said in a statement that “there was no censorship, simply an excess of modesty” on the part of an overzealous female editor who had made the edits without Dallatana’s approval. Dallatana ordered the episode to be rebroadcast uncensored on Sunday evening in the same primetime slot. It played as smart counter-programming to the Euro 2016 soccer championship final between France and Portugal on Rai 1.

Dallatana also said that “these controversies help us take the right steps for the future.”

Rai has come under repeated fire for its allegedly homophobic ways. In 2008, they aired a bowdlerized version of Ang Lee’s “Brokeback Mountain,” sans the sex scene, causing gay-rights activist and former member of parliament Vladimir Luxuria to lament that it was “like showing the Mona Lisa without its head.”

More recently, in 2015, Rai sparked protests for allegedly not allowing gay couples to get onstage and kiss during a televised Labor Day concert.

In May, Italy became the last country in Western Europe to grant some legal rights to gay couples after a years-long battle and opposition from the Catholic Church. Parliament granted same-sex couples many of the same rights as married couples, but it stopped far short of authorizing marriage equality and adoption rights.

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