Italy debates the law against homophobia

Unfortunately, a law against homophobia is more urgent than ever. With neofascism on the rise, the LGBTQI+ community in Italy needs support and protection. Even from its politicians. Hence, the Ddl (disegno di legge) Zan, a proposal against discrimination and for equality. But this law has been stuck in Parliament for years. Now, it seems like the Italian government is ready to take a vote. About what?

What the Ddl Zan says

Ten distinct points make up this law. They address racism, speech, and education. Furthermore, it focuses on gender, sexual preferences, and disability. First, the Ddl Zan defines these terms. First, gender can be both biological and not (to acknowledge the transgender community) and gender identity means what and how the person feels, despite the biological gender. So, this law takes into account the changes that have been happening, with more and more people being fluid, open, and eager to live their life as they want.

Furthermore, the proposal doesn’t abolish free speech. On the contrary, people can voice their opinions. But, if they incite any discriminatory or violent acts, the law won’t protect them. So, hardcore Catholics might still consider gay couples as unworthy, however they can’t ask their followers to act or even imply racist or violent actions. If approved, the Ddl Zan would add discrimination as an aggravating factor to crimes. Anything that is based on homophobia or racism against gender sex, sexual identity would become a hate crime. So, the introduction new crime for the Italian penal code. And not only.

Education and prevention

The Zan proposal doesn’t only aim at protecting the Italian LGBTQI+ communities and the country’s minorities. In fact, its goal is to prevent discrimination to make the Ddl Zan almost unnecessary. First, through the National day against homophobia, which would be May, 17th. There will be workshops and conferences all over the country. Most importantly, in schools.

Obviously, education is key. That’s why the law proposes to implement a nation-wide strategy that lasts three years. Its goals are to prevent and contrast discriminations, in schools and workplaces. Also, to improve the situation in jails and to have better communication in all fields of a citizen’s life. Hence, the last step of the law: more support centers.

The Ddl Zan aims at punishing discrimination, when it’s too late. Otherwise, its goal is to eradicate homophobia. Perhaps an utopia, but the Italian law has to start somewhere. Seems sensible, so why is there opposition to it?

It overturns the law of God

Indeed, the Vatican isn’t a fan of the Ddl Zan, just like it was never a big supporter of the LGBTQI+ community.

To understand why, it’s important to take a step back. The Italian government and the Vatican have an agreement, which dates back to 1929. It’s called Concordato and it recognized the Vatican as an independent state. When Italy became a Republic in 1946, the newborn Constitution still recognized the separate sovereignty of the two countries. Then, in 1984, the Patti Lateranensi abolished a few church’s privileges but they left freedoms. For example, now Catholicism isn’t the only religion of the state. But the church has freedom to preach and teach its doctrine, even in schools.

When the debate about the Ddl Zan picked up momentum and attention, the Vatican sent a formal complaint to the Italian government, signed by Paul Richard Gallagher. The main reasons are two.

First, the Concordato guarantees that Catholic schools are free to teach what they prefer. But these private institutions also have to participate in the National day against discrimination. Then, the Catholics worry about freedom of thought. In fact, the Ddl Zan gives freedom of of speech with any communication mean. In this case, the Vatican is worried that freedom would lead to more intolerance against the church, especially from LGBTQI+ couples -since gays aren’t part of God’s plan. Just the opposite.

“This law overturns the law of God,” said bishop Antonio Suetta from Sanremo-Ventimiglia.

The political debate on the Ddl Zan

After years spent ignoring this proposal, politicians seem ready to vote on it. After an attempt at suspending the debate and voting failed, the Ddl has arrived at the Senate . However, voting might take place in September. Why? Because parties are still trying to shut the law down.

While the leader of the populist party Lega, Matteo Salvini, agrees that a law on discrimination is essential, his party won’t vote for it the way it is. First, according to Salvini, it needs changes.

“Let’s take out the part of the Ddl Zan that divides the country,” said the leader at the Senate, “let’s take the kids out of it, the education in elementary school, let’s leave the right to educate children to their parents.” So, the Ddl is necessary, when it comes to punishing crime. Instead, the opposition had a problem with education. The party Italia Viva even has issue with “gender identity,” since it proposed to remove it altogether.

Parties still have time to present their edits to the law, which is still awaiting approval.

The people’s debate

While politicians look at their interests, Italians talk about the Ddl. And 51% of them approve and 23% is against the idea of Italia Viva because the law would be less effective. Plus, 37% of citizens believe the law against homophobia is a priority. So, the country believes in the law. Now it’s up to the politicians.

“Freedom of speech can’t include hate speech and incitement,” said Alessandro Zan to the Catholic newspaper Avvenire, “that’s why freedom of speech, guaranteed in our Constitution, needs to be balanced with human dignity.” It’s time to find that balance, even in a Catholic country like Italy.

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