Vatican intervenes to stop proposed anti-homophobia law in Italy

The Vatican had sent a letter to the Italian government to request a change in a new anti-homophobia law to be passed. On June 17th, a "verbal note" by the Vatican's secretary of relation with states, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, was delivered to the Italian embassy, as confirmed by a spokesperson of the Vatican.



The new draft, named the "Zan Bill" after the gay legislator of the center-left Democratic Party Alessandro Zan who wrote the bill, designed to make violence and hate speech against LGBT people and disabled people, as well as misogyny, a crime. The bill was passed in the lower house back in November but has been delayed in the upper house until February due to changes in the government and senate with far-right parties.

The Vatican fears that the law could criminalize the church for refusing to conduct gay marriages, opposing adoption by homosexual couples, or refusing to teach gender theory in Catholic schools. The Vatican's secretary of state Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who ranks second only to Pope Francis in the Vatican hierarchy, said the draft law was too "vague and uncertain" about what exactly constitutes the "violence" or “hate speech".

"This was not in any way an attempt to block the la; we oppose any behavior or gesture of intolerance or hate towards people because of their sexual orientation, their ethnicity or religious belief," Parolin told the official Vatican News website, "There is a risk of lumping all kinds of attitudes together and making it possible to punish every possible distinction between a man and a woman."

The letter stated that the law questioned the catholics' "freedom of organization" and "freedom of thought", as reported by Corriere Della Sera. It expressed concerns about private schools having to be forced to organize events against homophobia. It also mentioned that the bill violates the 1929 Lateran Pacts, which established Vatican City as a sovereign state and secured the freedoms and rights of the church, as well as the 1984 update, which stripped Catholicism of its status as the state religion but included protections for the Italian church's pastoral activities.

The center and left wing parties accused the Vatican of interference, while the right wing parties applauded the Vatican's decision. Even Prime Minister Mario Draghi, a practicing Catholic, intervened to defend Italy as a lay state with a sovereign parliament. Along with right wing parties, the law has been challenged by other Catholic groups and feminist groups who argue that "gender identity", a term used in the bill, had been "weaponized against women".

Italy approved same-sex civil unions in 2016. However, they have lagged behind other EU members in taking anti-homophobia measures. Rome-based editor of the English edition of Catholic Daily newspaper La Croix, Robert Mickens, said, "It's the first time the church has done something like this; they're worrying about being fined for hate speech."

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