Campaigners are demanding Italy finally passes a law before its parliament to tackle anti-LGBT+ hate crime and discrimination.
Unlike other European countries, Italy doesn’t give specific protection on the basis of gender, gender identity or sexual orientation.
The opportunity to pass legislation has arisen multiple times in the last decades. However, politicians have always blocked it.
Now that may change with a proposal extend anti-racism laws to outlaw discrimination and hate crimes against women, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
The proposal arose after multiple attacks on LGBT+ people received widespread publicity. One in particular, that saw a young gay man needing reconstructive facial surgery after an attack in the city of Pescara, provided extra motivation for LGBT+ Italians and their allies.
Alessandro Zan, an LGBT+ campaigner as part of leading organization Arcigay and a lawmaker in the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of parliament, drafted the legislation.
Now, over 58,000 people have signed a petition in support of the move. Digital activism organization AllOut is running the petition on behalf of a group of LGBT+ organizations.
It says: ‘After so many failures in passing laws tackling these issues, it is high time Italy plays its part in combating discrimination and violence based on sex, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity.
‘Italy can no longer wait. Both the Parliament and the Government must act quickly and pass an effective law.
‘LGBT+ people in Italy are asking for one simple thing: to be able to live and love, free from fear.’
Bishops say tackling hate is ‘the death of liberty’
Zan’s Democratic Party (PD), part of the ruling government coalition, is supporting the proposal.
He said: ‘Homophobia is widespread across the country – even if it’s often hidden. It emerges every time gay, lesbian and transgender men and women try to live openly.’
However, the right-wing opposition Lega Nord is opposed. Perhaps even more significant is the opposition of Brothers of Italy – which represents Italian bishops.
Indeed, the bishops said the new law would be ‘the death of liberty’.
One priest in the southern region of Puglia even held a vigil to pray for the law’s failure.
Moreover another in Sicily 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, LGBT+ campaigners argue the community urgently needs the law.
In May this year, research by the European Agency for Fundamental Rights showed 62% of LGBT+ Italians avoid holding hands in public. Moreover, 30% do not go to certain places for fear of attack.
And despite high levels of verbal harassment and physical attacks, only one in six report incidents to the police.
Meanwhile, the annual Europe Rainbow Map placed Italy as the worst country in western Europe and one of the worst in southern Europe for LGBT+ rights.