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Goading MPs cheer as Italy’s senate blocks bill to make violence against LGBTQ a hate crime

Gloating MPs from Italy’s right-wing political parties stood cheering and applauding in celebrations after the parliament rejected an anti-LGBTQ violence and discrimination bill.

The lawmakers in Italy’s upper house of senate on Wednesday rejected a bill that would have criminalised violence and hate speech against LGBTQ and disabled people, in a blow to the country’s fight against discrimination.

The so-called “Zan bill” was killed by 154 votes to 131 in the senate after a motion to block the bill was put forward by right-wing political parties.

The legislation would have amended Italy’s penal code to make homophobia a criminal offence by banning discrimination on the grounds of sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and disability.

It was initially passed in the lower house in November 2020 amid calls for a change in the law over growing homophobia and transphobia attacks in the country.

But after being struck down on Wednesday, any proposals to introduce LGBTQ-related hate crimes will have to again go through a full cycle of approval in the parliament which includes getting it passed in the Lower House and the Senate, which means it may take years before becoming law,

Videos from the senate showing lawmakers clapping and cheering to celebrate the blocking of motion has caused outrage among the supporters of the bill, who called it “disgusting” and “shameful”.

Describing the decision as “one of the worst pages in the history of the Italian republic,” Pina Picierno, a member of the Democratic Party, said “fear and conservation” had prevailed and called on people “to repair this shame”.

The most vocal opponents of the proposed laws were right-wing political parties Northern League and the Brothers of Italy parties, as well as the Vatican. According to the opponents, the law would have endangered freedom of expression and promoted “homosexual propaganda” in schools.

In June, the Vatican lodged a unprecedented formal diplomatic complaint against the bill alledging that it breached the bilateral treaty between Italy and the Holy See, the Concordat. It raised fears that Catholics might get prosecuted for expression their opinions.

Far-right League leader Matteo Salvini hailed the decision, saying the bill failed to reach support because of inflexibility on the law’s contents.

“They said no to all compromise proposals, including those proposed by the Holy Father (Pope Francis), by associations and by many families,” Mr Salvini said.

Simone Pillon, the league senator and Family Day founder said: “Bye Bye Zan. There is still hope in Italy.”

But foreign minister Luigi di Maio of the Five Star Movement called a “disgrace” that the law failed, and said discrimination of gay people continues in Italian society.