Italian Senate blocks controversial ‘anti-homophobia’ bill

Palazzo Madama, the seat of the Senate of the Italian Republic in Rome Palazzo Madama, the seat of the Senate of the Italian Republic in Rome. | FrDr via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0).

A bill to introduce “anti-homophobia” legislation in Italy, harshly criticized by pro-family leaders and Catholics, failed in the Italian Senate on Wednesday.

The proposed law, known as “Ddl Zan,” was voted down 154 to 131, with two abstentions.

The legislation had been under examination by the senate for 11 months after the text received initial approval from the lower house of parliament in November last year.

Italy’s Catholic bishops had spoken out against the bill, which they said had the potential to infringe on the civil liberties of those opposed to same-sex unions.

Pro Vita & Famiglia, an Italian pro-life and pro-family association, had also been a strident opponent of the proposed “anti-homophobia” legislation.

Earlier this month, the Vatican’s doctrinal office wrote a letter to Pro Vita & Famiglia, responding to a request for clarification about Catholic teaching on support for bills like Ddl Zan.

In the Oct. 1 letter, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith listed the many times that Pope Francis has condemned gender ideology and said Catholic legislators must oppose laws inconsistent with Catholic teaching.

Toni Brandi, the president of Pro Vita & Famiglia, praised the Senate’s decision to drop the bill, saying on Oct. 27 that “the rejection of Ddl Zan is a victory for democracy, freedom of opinion and conscience, and the educational freedom of Italian families.”

“Among senators, the sense of the common good prevailed. Today we all won because all Italians have the right to express their fundamental freedoms and to think differently from the usual pro-LGBT mainstream,” a statement by the organization said.

The bill, which aimed to criminalize “discrimination or violence based on sex, gender or disability,” and add an annual day against “homophobia” and “transphobia” to the national calendar, had received significant support from public figures in Italy.

But controversy erupted in June when the Vatican Secretariat of State raised concerns about parts of the proposed legislation’s text in a two-page letter leaked to the press.

The note verbale, a kind of unsigned diplomatic letter, said that parts of the bill were too vague and could lead to violations of the Catholic Church’s freedoms as guaranteed by a 1984 agreement between the Vatican and Italy. It urged lawmakers to consider modifying the text.

The letter was reportedly given to Pietro Sebastiani, the Italian ambassador to the Holy See, by Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican’s equivalent of a foreign minister, after a Vatican press conference on June 17.

The Vatican’s intervention was harshly criticized by Italian celebrities and politicians, including Prime Minister Mario Draghi, who commented on the note in a senate session on June 23.

“Ours is a secular state, it is not a confessional state and parliament is free to discuss, to legislate,” he said, arguing that the country’s legal system already contained the guarantees needed to respect its agreement with the Catholic Church.

In an interview with Vatican News on June 24, Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin clarified that the Vatican’s letter was not intended to be made public, and “was in no way a request to block the law.”

“Our worry concerns the interpretative problems that could arise if a text with vague and uncertain contents was adopted,” he said.

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