Zan Billvetoed by Senate

A new low? Italy’s senate votes down anti-homophobic violence bill


Italy’s senate has killed off a bill that would have made violence against LGBT people and disabled people, as well as misogyny, a hate crime. Named after centre-left Democratic party (PD) legislator Alessandro Zan, the lower house approved the bill earlier in the year.

The 315-member senate voted by 154 to 131 on Wednesday to block the debate on the law. There had been months of protests from far-right and Catholic groups. Pina Picierno, a PD member of the European parliament, called the vote “one of the worst pages in the history of the Italian republic”.

Far-right say law suppressed freedom of expression

The far-right parties had argued the law would have suppressed freedom of expression and promoted “homosexual propaganda” in schools. This was their primary  for voting agains the bill in the upper house.

In June, the Vatican urged the government to change the law over concerns it would infringe upon the Catholic church’s “freedom of thought”.

Read: What is the Zan bill?

Matteo Salvini’s far-right League and Brothers of Italy, led by Giorgia Meloni hailed the Senate vote blocking the bill.

Salvini said “the arrogance of the PD and M5S has been defeated”. He thinks the debate should now restart from a League bill allowing the freedom of expression.

The League senator and Family Day founder Simone Pillon said on Facebook: “Bye Bye Zan. There is still hope in Italy.”

Hate crimes often go unpunished

The Zan bill would have led to the jailing of people convicted of hate crimes for up to four years. It also included an increase in funding for groups working against discrimination, plus assist people who are victims of it.

Although Italy approved same-sex civil unions in 2016, the country has lagged behind its EU partners in creating anti-homophobia measures.

Every attempt over the last 30 years to enact a similar law has been either stifled or sabotaged. A culture of machismo, Catholicism and support for far-right parties has dealt blows to meaningful debate and action.

The foreign minister Luigi Di Maio said the bill was “swept away in a disgraceful secret vote”. The Gaynet Roma group said it was a “slap in the face for the majority of the population”.

The M5S leader and former prime minister Giuseppe Conte said: “Those who are rejoicing at this sabotage should explain it to the country”.

“They wanted to stop the future. They wanted to bring Italy back in history,” said the former prime minister and current PD leader, Enrico Letta.

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