- The bill has passed by a clear majority in Italy’s lower house of parliament but hate groups may still derail it.
Italy’s Senate is not likely to debate a new hate crime law to protect LGBT+ people and women until early next year, despite it securing a big majority in the Chamber of Deputies.
The bill passed by 265 votes to 130 in the 630-member chamber on 4 November. It makes violence against women and LGBT+ people a hate crime for the first time in Italy. Offenders will face up to four years in jail.
However, it needs approval from the Senate – the upper house of Italian Parliament.
And while the measure should also command a majority in the Senate, vocal and powerful hate groups may delay or even derail it.
Formally, the Chamber of Deputies has already passed the bill to the Senate. However, senators are not obliged to debate and vote on it straight away.
Meanwhile anti-LGBT+ Catholics and right-wing politicians are campaigning hard to stop it becoming law.
Yuri Guaiana, is senior campaigns manager in Italy for international LGBT+ organization All Out. They have been working with Italian groups to get the bill passed.
He told GSN: ‘When the debate is going to start in the Senate is the real political question at the moment. We need to make sure this is going to happen as soon as possible but we expect the Senate will take it on at the begining of next year.
‘The bill not only has to pass but it has to pass in the same form as now. Changes will risk depleting the effectiveness of the law. Equally, if the Senate changes even a comma in the bill, it has to go back to the lower chamber and the whole process starts again.’
‘The death of liberty’
Guaiana also highlighted the risk opponents could prevent the bill becoming law.
He said: ‘My feeling is the majority of the population is in favor. It is just the extension of the law that criminalizes discrimination.
‘Of course, opposition is really strong – in terms of certain groups that are very powerful. There is a very tangible risk that this bill might not pass because of these strong groups.’
Among the opponents are the right-wing opposition Lega Nord party and the Brothers of Italy group – which represents Italian bishops.
Indeed, the bishops said that if the proposal was put into law it would be ‘the death of liberty’.
One priest in Sicily falsely claimed during a sermon: ‘If you express an opinion against homosexuals, or don’t agree with two men adopting a child, you could end up in jail.’
And Jacopo Coghe, president of the conservative Pro Life and Family organization, is mobilizing opposition. Using similar language to anti-LGBT+ bishops and politicians in Poland, he said the law sought to ‘impose a certain culture’.
Meanwhile, Pope Francis – whose record on LGBT+ rights is checkered at best – has remained silent.
However, over 77,000 people have signed All Out’s petition in support of the bill.