Rome's Via del Corso, the city's main shopping street, has installed rainbow-themed lights to honor the memory of a gay teen who committed suicide.

Selection of the rainbow-flag theme for the bustling street's traditional Christmas lights has stirred controversy. The lights run above the street for almost a mile.

City assemblywoman Imma Battaglia, also a gay rights activist, told the AFP that she and Mayor Ignazio Marino decided on the theme to counter homophobia.

Members of the right-wing Fratelli d'Italia (Italian Brothers) complained.

“The idea is provocative and ideological. There should be an Italian tri-color instead,” Assemblyman Fabrizio Ghera said.

The company that installed the lights attempted to defuse the controversy by re-dedicating the lights to the memory of Nelson Mandela, who died last week.

“This way the message of love, tolerance, unity and sharing will become stronger,” Laura Rossi International said on Friday.