Two years of hard work have been sabotaged by a sordid stitch-up between cynical politicians and the Church


In the end, it took the votes of just twelve senators to bury the hopes of Italy’s LGBTQI community.  

For the last two years, a major focus for LGBT people in Italy has been the “DDL Zan”. That is, the “disegno di lege” (DDL) – or “Bill” – put forward by out and gay Deputy, Alessandro Zan, which sought to put in place protections for women, as well as LGBTQI and disabled minorities, against violence and discrimination. Similar to hate law in other European countries, it would have done this in two ways: creating specific hate offenses; and making “hate” directed towards individuals with these characteristics an aggravating factor in sentencing.

The proposal also envisaged the establishment of a National Day Against Discrimination and the creation of new victim protection centres. 

LGBTQI Italians have the right to a civil union; the right, too, to “change sex” and have that change recognised in law. But workplace discrimination remains legal, and adoption by LGBTQI couples remains a legal grey area. It may or may not be permitted at the discretion of individual courts and officials. 

Yet despite endemic violence against women and minorities in Italy, there is still no additional tariff for hate crime: nothing to prevent the homophobes and transphobes from spreading their poison in public with no fear of reprisal.

What killed the Bill? A mixture of entrenched bigotry and sordid political manoeuvrings. The right-wing Lega, Forza Italia and the even further right Fratelli d’Italia were always opposed.

In June 2021, the Vatican, too, declared itself against. The Vatican Secretary for Relations with States Monsignor Paul Richard Gallagher sent a formal request to the Italian government asking for a meeting. This was necessary, he argued, because parts of the Bill violated “some parts of the Concordat” between Italian State and the Church in Rome. The meeting never happened. Politically, it was too hot to handle for the shaky and uneven coalition currently governing Italy.

The Bill’s card was marked. Wavering politicians now knew which way the Pope would swing. Opposing hate is clearly at odds with the values of the Catholic church.

Still, there was hope. The Bill sailed through the lower chamber, Chamber of Deputies, in November 2020. It was then held up for three months in the Senate because a bloc of right-wing senators successfully defined the provisions as “non-priority”. This prevented the Bill from moving on to its next stage: discussion before the Justice Committee.

Even so, the Bill’s supporters were confident of taking the bill to the next stage: a formal line by line examination of the proposal. Only then the right sprung its “trap”, in the form of a procedural motion to close down debate and to stop this from happening.

In the bag – it is hard to be sure, because the vote was conducted in secret – they appear to have had twelve votes from the supposedly centre-left Italia Viva party, led by former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. Originally a supporter, Renzi had lately been flirting with the right. He made it known he wanted to go back to an earlier version of hate crime law that would have excluded schools and excluded gender identity.

On the day of the vote, he was away, speaking on a panel on Future Investment in Saudi Arabia alongside his deeply homophobic, transphobic and misogynist friends and allies from that state.

In the end, 154 voted for the procedural motion’ 131 against; 2 abstained. It is likely that at least 12 members of Renzi’s party changed sides. As the result of the vote became clear, to the disgust of all those who hoped Italy might at last be making progress in this sensitive area, many of those present rejoiced loudly, noisily (from c. 0.40 in the link here).

Lega leader and right-wing demagogue Matteo Salvini gloated, arguing that it was time to take the issue back to the drawing board.

For the rest, it was a sad day. Two year’s hard work by Zan, by the LGBTQI community and women’s groups, and others, have been sabotaged by a sordid stitch-up between cynical politicians and the Church.

It is not over. As Zan supporter and another former Prime Minister, Enrico Letta tweeted yesterday:

“They want to stop the future. They want to take Italy backward. Yes. Today they and their manoeuvrings have prevailed in the Senate. But that is not our country. And soon we will see that. #DDLZan”

DIVA magazine celebrates 27 years in print in 2021. If you like what we do, then get behind LGBTQI media and keep us going for another generation. Your support is invaluable. 

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