Italy’s parliament has rejected a bill to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people from discrimination.
The Chamber of Deputies voted yesterday 293 votes to 250 not to approve the legislation.
Gay rights campaigners have called on the European Union to step in.
Italy already bans discrimination on the grounds of race, religion, ethnicity and nationality but campaigners say rising numbers of homophobic and transphobic attacks means LGBT people need more protection.
Paolo Patane, head of gay rights association Arcigay, told AFP: “This parliament has betrayed justice and civility and has decided to support the violent.”
He added that the EU should “help us face this extremely dangerous rise in homophobia, xenophobia and racism that the Italian parliament has decided to legitimise.”
Nicola Duckworth of Amnesty International said: “In addition to passing the right laws, authorities and politicians should set the example.
“They should promote equality and non-discrimination and refrain from and condemn derogatory and discriminatory remarks that foster a climate of intolerance.”
Italy also bars gay couples from marrying or adopting children.
Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi is on record for opposing gay rights, although gay campaigners claim his alleged affairs with minors make him a hypocrite.
Last year, the Italian leader brushed off criticism, saying: “It’s better to be passionate about beautiful women than to be gay.”