(CNN) -- The mayor of Venice has hit back after singer Elton John rebuked him on Instagram for taking the controversial decision to ban children's books with same-sex references.
As part of his election campaign in June, Mayor Luigi Brugnaro withdrew "books on gender theory," as well as literature on "physical, religious and racial discrimination," he said in a statement. Books were removed which were deemed "not suitable for pre-school children." He added that some books will be redistributed.
"It'll be a work of analysis, done with precision and attention, even using the summer time and the school holidays, choosing the best people to take care of it and thus avoiding further disputes and exploitation of a subject that has already done too much to talk about itself," the mayor said.
Despite claiming that he would not be swayed by his critiques, after a backlash from Italians, writers and even human rights organization Amnesty International, dozens of banned books have been reduced to two.
He tweeted the cover of a book entitled "Jean a Deux Mamans" (Jean has two mummies): "That's one of the # gender books withdrawn from preschools. Book in French with two mothers," he confirmed. "The Little Egg" is the other blacklisted book, which tells the story of an egg which decides to explore different forms of family, including same-sex parents, before hatching into life.
Singer Elton John, who is gay, married and a father of two, has not been impressed. "Here is one of the Furnish-John family's favourite storybooks," said John on Instagram, posting a photo of the front cover of "The Family Book" by Todd Parr, which was on the original banned list. The book celebrates different types of families, including same-sex parents, and encourages children to ask questions about relationships.
"It champions an all-inclusive world where families come in all shapes, sizes and colours," said John. "And most importantly, that families are about love. Our boys adore it."
Describing the mayor as "extremely silly looking," John said he has "stupidly chosen to politicise children's books by banning titles that touch on same sex families living happily ever after.
"So instead of encouraging a world based on inclusiveness, tolerance and love, he's championing a future society that's divisive and fosters ignorance."
But Brugnaro hasn't taken the musician's comments lying down, venting his views on Twitter. Taking a stab at John's residence in the Italian city, the mayor tweeted: "Dear rich #EltonJohn, you, who loves my city so much, what resources, other than buying a house, have you ever offered to save Venice?"
The mayor also reiterated the reasons behind his decision. "The whole world should know that we, the people of Venice, will defend our children. We will bring our great Venice back, together. "
He also retweeted his supporters in the social battle. "Dear @eltonjohndotcom, your arrogance against @LuigiBrugnaro is matched only by your talent ... and you have so much talent...," said Paolo Bettio.
After the mayor's controversial move, 263 Italian authors added their signatures to a letter to him asking for their books to be removed as well. Actress Martina Galletta also created a petition against the ban on campaigning website Change.org in July, which gathered over 30,000 names. And Venetian residents even started public read-ins of the prohibited literature, promoting their cause on a Facebook page entitled "Free our Books."
Out of the 20 countries that have legalized gay marriage, two-thirds are in Europe. However, Italy remains one of the largest countries in the continent where same-sex unions remain unrecognized.
"Beautiful Venice is indeed sinking, but not as fast as the boorishly bigoted Brugnaro. #SharetheLove," added John to his Instagram post.
This isn't John's first social media spat. In March this year, the singer boycotted the clothes of Italian designers Dolce and Gabbana, after comments they made on in-vitro fertilization, saying it involved "synthetic" children born from "rented" wombs.
However, Domenico Dolce apologized for his remarks in Vogue magazine this week. Elton John said on Instagram that all is forgiven and he will don their apparels once again.
Sara Delgrossi contributed to this report.
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