A number of demonstrations were held in Rome, Italy, last weekend to call for more laws to protect gay people from hate crime.

The protests came after the Italian parliament voted out a a bill of hate crime protections. Some MPs said it would violate the Italian constitution which requires equality for all, while others claimed that it would also offer protection to tendencies such as paedophilia, zoophilia, necrophilia and incest.

In the latest homophobic attack, a young gay man was beaten up in a gay nightclub in the central Piazza Salvemini. He has undergone reconstructive surgery to his face. One man has been arrested.

On September 1st, a couple of firecrackers were thrown at a bar on San Giovanni in Laterano, known as Gay Street. One man was taken to hospital with a minor injury and a scooter was damaged.

The previous week, a lesbian woman was reported to have been threatened by a young man on the same street, while a gay male couple were attacked in a separate incident.

A gay nightclub was also targeted by arsonists.

Following the attacks, Italy’s largest gay rights organisation Arcigay, has called for more legal protections for LGBT people and is asking parliament to urgently expand existing laws. Italy’s hate crime laws do not mention homophobia, something LGBT groups have been campaigning over for years.

The protests have been commended by the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA)

Secretary David Christmas said: “We congratulate the Italians on the stand they are taking against their government and parliament’s refusal to act to protect its gay and lesbian citizens.

“The suggestion that the bill would give gay people ‘special rights’ is morally offensive, since gay victims of hate crime are already being singled out for ‘special treatment’ by their attackers. The objection is also intellectually fatuous as the law would also protect straight people targeted for their sexuality. The fact that there are few if any instances of people attacked for being heterosexual is hardly a criticism to be made against gay people.”

“The key role of the Vatican in this, also confirms that voicing its disapproval against gay people is more important than physically protecting their lives.

“We call on the Italian government and parliament to reverse this shameful decision, and to respect the memory of some of the greatest people in history who have been gay Italians, from Leonardo da Vinci to Michelangelo.”

“We also call on European institutions and other EU Governments to apply all possible pressure on Italy to grant full equality and protection to all of its citizens.”

“And we call on the many decent Roman Catholics, both in Italy and elsewhere, to make clear to the Vatican that they do not support its continued vendetta against gay people.”

Andrea Maccarrone, president of the Rome-based gay association Circolo Mario Mieli, said: “We welcome GALHA’s support in this vital struggle, which involves all European citizens, not just Italians.”