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Italy blocks hate crime bill after unprecedented opposition from Vatican and far right

Lily Wakefield October 27, 2021
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Italy hate crime law protest

Protesters hold a sign reading "una legge contro l'odio non toglie liberta a nessuno" – "a law against hate does not take anyone's freedom away" – in Rome, Italy, 2020. (Getty/ Simona Granati - Corbis)

Italy has voted down a bill to tackle hate crimes against women, LGBT+ people and those with disabilities, all in the name of religious freedom.

The bill – known as the Zan bill after the Democratic Party lawmaker and LGBT+ rights activist Alessandro Zan, who proposed it – was approved my the Italian parliament’s lower house last year.

The Zan bill, which would protect Italians from violence, hate speech and discrimination on the basis of sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation and disability, has caused a divide in the country since it was introduced, with critics insisting that it would infringe on religious freedom.

On Wednesday, Italy’s senate voted 154 to 131 to block further debate on the bill for the next six months, according to Reuters. Advocates of the bill fear it will now be impossible to pass it before the legislature expires in 2023.

Zan described the outcome of the vote on Twitter as a “betrayal of a political pact that wanted the country to take a step towards civilisation”.

Gabriele Piazzoni, general secretary of of Italian LGBT+ rights group Arcigay, said that the state had “once again turned the other way” when it comes to homophobia and transphobia.

“We thank those who fought,” he added. “Shame on everyone else.”

The LGBT+ rights bill faced opposition from the Vatican and Italy’s far-right

Earlier this year, Italy saw an “unprecedented” intervention by the Vatican, which insisted that the bill would threaten the religious freedom of the Catholic Church in Italy.

The church feared prosecution for openly opposing same-sex marriage and adoption by LGBT+ families, and also opposed the bill’s requirement that Catholic schools would have to mark a day dedicated to fighting homophobia and transphobia.

The bill also faced fierce opposition from Italy’s far-right League party, with the party’s leader Matteo Salvini describing it as a “gagging law” which would mean that “those who think a mom is a mom and a dad is a dad” would end up in jail.

Andrea Ostellari, a League party senator and president of the Italian senate’s justice committee, managed to repeatedly delay the second vote on the bill.

According to The Guardian, Alessandro Zan said earlier this year that lawmakers who backed the bill were “being held hostage by a president who arbitrarily decides that the vote shouldn’t be scheduled because he belongs to a party that doesn’t want it”.

In a pattern that is becoming worryingly familiar around the world, the bill’s opposition also united anti-trans activists with the far-right.

In April, a group of 17 “feminist” and lesbian groups issued a joint statement against the bill.

Despite the bill aiming to protect Italians on the basis of both sex and gender, the groups declared that the term “gender identity” had been “weaponised against women”.

At the time, Zan rejected the letter, and responded: “To say that trans women are not real women is not acceptable.

“We are talking about people who are particularly discriminated against… Unfortunately, some statements by historic and radical feminists have the same content as the extreme right and religious fundamentalists.”

Related topics: Italy

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