Italian upper house Senate brings down LGBT+ protection bill


ROME (Reuters) - The Italian Senate voted on Wednesday to block debate over a bill that would make violence against women and LGBT+ people a hate crime, effectively killing off a proposal previously approved by the lower house of parliament.

The bill, championed by the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), has triggered fierce discussion in Italy, with the Vatican also getting involved, saying it could restrict the religious freedom of the Catholic Church.

The 315-member Senate voted by 154 to 131 to block further debate on the bill after centre-right parties said the text would curb dissenting opinions on LGBT+ issues, including those who maintain that a family requires the union of a man and a woman.

Parliament will be unable to reopen discussions on the proposed law for the next six months and centre-left lawmakers believe it will be impossible to approve it before the legislature expires early in 2023.

"The bill is dead," PD senator Dario Parrini told Reuters.

LGBT+ advocacy groups say homophobia is a serious problem in Italy and have long complained that homophobic and transphobic attacks are tried on lesser charges than racist assaults.

Italy's largest LGBT+ rights group, Arcigay, records more than 100 hate crime and discrimination cases each year, but numerous attempts over the last 25 years to create a law to punish acts of homophobia and transphobia have failed.

In Italy, where same-sex unions were passed in 2016, the approval of civil rights laws has often been marked by strong opposition from Catholic and conservative groups.

Supporters of the bill, named after the gay PD lawmaker and promoter Alessandro Zan, have repeatedly denied that it would impinge on free speech, saying it would only punish hate crimes.

The Vatican feared that the law could lead to the criminalisation of the Church in Italy for refusing to conduct gay marriages, for opposing adoption by homosexual couples, or refusing to teach gender theory in Catholic schools.

(Reporting by Angelo Amante; Editing by Crispian Balmer and Bernadette Baum)

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