Italy doesn’t equate homophobia to racism


Southern Europe


The Italian MP Alessandro Zan had to accept that his bill on anti-homophobia was voted down in the Senate on Wednesday. Photo EPA, Ettore Ferrari

The so-called “Zan bill” against homophobia will not become law in Italy. The Senate voted with 23 votes majority against this proposal on Wednesday. This finishes a debate that took many years.

The designer of the bill, Mr Zan, is an MP for the Democrats and known as a LGBT rights campaigner. He wanted to combat discrimination and violence on sex, gender or disability. The discrimination paragraph would apply to hate-speech as well. Zan’s aim was to make homophobia (including transphobia and misogyny) a crime comparable to racism.

At present, Italy’s penal code from 1993 only explicitly mentions “racial, ethnic, national or religious” motives, Euronews sums up. The Zan bill would have added five new categories: sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability.

Opponents of the bill were afraid that they had to accept the modern gender theory, including the concept that gender differences are socially created instead of biologically given. Another point was that they did not want a special anti-homophobia day at schools.

Earlier this year, even the Vatican entered the debate, claiming that this law would jeopardise an old treaty between Italy and the church. It’s clear that much in the Zan bill was against the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, namely that male and female are given by God and that sexuality is given for marriage of a man and a woman.

Conservative opposition

Much of the opposition against the bill came from conservatives. Other opposition came from the right, and even from some feminists who were not happy with the gender construction in the bill.

The result of the vote was greeted by applause. The bill was voted anonymously in the Senate, Corriere della Serra reports. Supporters of the law saw this as a “trap”, since the anonymity made it easier for members to vote against.

The vote ended in 154 against and 131 in favour. This result led to frustration for the centre-left, since they had counted 149 votes in support of the bill. At the end, two senators abstained and 16 voted with the right.

Now the bill is voted down, the debate on these issues can restart in committee no earlier than in six months' time. But it has to start from a completely new text.

Salvini: just arrogance

After the vote, Lega leader Matteo Salvini spoke about the “arrogance” of the bill supporters, that said no to all mediation proposals, including those from the Pope.

Supporter of the bill, Democrats leader Simona Malpezzi, asked: “What will you tell your children when you say that you voted against a law that was intended to protect people who are the object of hate crimes?”

Ignazio La Russa from the right-wing Brothers of Italy said that, according to him, the bill was redundant. “There is no discriminatory behaviour that is not already punishable, except opinions.” He added that he had felt discriminated against in the past for his political affiliation.

The bill was already accepted by the lower house in November 2020. But the Senate, as the higher house, has the final say.

Culture war

It is no exaggeration to say that this Zan bill has led to a sort of culture war in Italy during the last years. It was a repeated topic in political debates and media platforms. The set-up was ideal for polarisation: the good against the bad; the old against the new; modern against old-fashioned. Nobody could be against anti-discrimination, so what would be wrong with this, supporters of the bill argued. Therefore, the bill has sparked much controversy and heated arguments.



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