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A bill which would have extended Italy’s hate crime legislation to cover LGBTQ+ people has been defeated in the Senate, the upper house of the Italian parliament, by 154 to 131 votes. The proposals, which also covered hate crimes against women and people with disabilities, had previously been approved by the Chamber of Deputies, the Italian equivalent of the Commons.

The Vatican, which seldom comments on Italian secular legislation, had joined far-right parties the League and Brothers of Italy in campaigning against the new law, citing concerns over “freedom of expression” and the promotion of “homosexual propaganda” in schools. Matteo Salvini, the League’s leader, said “the arrogance of the PD and M5S [the parties that introduced the bill] has been defeated”.

The measure was backed by Italy’s Democratic Party and named for Alessandro Zan, a gay member of the Chamber of Deputies. The move to block it has received widespread denunciation. Italian MEP Pina Picierno called the failure to pass the billI “one of the worst pages in the history of the Italian republic,” while two former Prime Ministers also joined the chorus of condemnation.

Enrico Letta, a former prime minister and now leader of the Democratic Party commented, “They wanted to stop the future. They wanted to bring Italy back in history,” while another ex-PM, said, “Those who are rejoicing at this sabotage should explain it to the country.”

Italy has been slower than many of its EU counterparts (and the UK) in enacting anti-homophobia legislation and, despite anti-LGBT hate crimes being reported to the police in their hundreds, criminal charges are seldom brought against the perpetrators. Fabrizio Marrazzo, a spokesperson for Rome’s Gay Centre, said that the Centre received about 20,000 reports of discrimination against LGBT people a year, of which about 9% are severe. 

The bill would have punished hate crimes against women, people with disabilities and LGBTQ+ people with up to four years imprisonment and would also have opened up increased streams of funding for organisations and groups which fight discrimination. Many of these groups, which are chiefly run by unpaid volunteers, may now have to close.

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