Italian LGBTQ+ hate crime bill defeated

ROME — Italian senators have killed a bill that would have criminalized violence and hate speech against LGBTQ+ people in Italy.

Italy’s Lower House had already approved the bill, which had the backing of the leftist Democrats, the anti-establishment 5Star Movement and the far-left Free and Equal Party. But the so-called Zan bill — named for its creator, LGBTQ+ rights campaigner and Democratic MP Alessandro Zan — faced opposition from right-wing parties and conservative Catholics.

The opponents claimed the measure would have restricted free speech and codified gender theory — the concept that gender distinctions are socially created — into law. They also objected to a clause that provided for the creation of an anti-homophobia day at schools. Even the Vatican entered the debate, writing to the Italian foreign ministry claiming the bill risked violating a historic treaty with Italy, which protects Catholics’ freedom of expression and organization. 

The right-wing coalition had proposed an alternate bill that would make homophobia an aggravating factor in violent crime but not provide protection for transgender people. After last-minute negotiations over a compromise failed, the right-wing parties scheduled an anonymous vote to block the bill from progressing in the Senate.

That vote passed on Wednesday with a majority of 23 votes, effectively killing the bill.

Right-wing MPs stood cheering and clapping after the result of the vote was announced.

Matteo Salvini, leader of the conservative League party, celebrated the win, proclaiming the left-wing parties that supported the bill had been arrogant. He suggested MPs should go back to the drawing board and formulate a new bill “from the League’s proposals, to fight discrimination leaving out gender theory and crimes of opinion and protecting freedom of education.”

Licia Ronzulli, a senator in Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party, blamed the left for being too inflexible in its ideologies.

“We could have done something good together, but they wanted an ideological law that split parliament,” she said.

Supporters, however, branded the situation as a missed opportunity. On Twitter, Zan blamed Matteo Renzi’s centrist Italia Viva party, which had supported the bill in the Lower House but later sided with opponents.

“The responsibilities are clear,” he said. “A political agreement that would have brought the country a step closer towards civilization was betrayed.”

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