Italy’s senate has killed off a bill that would have made violence against LGBT people and disabled people, as well as misogyny, a hate crime.
The 315-member senate voted by 154 to 131 on Wednesday to block the debate on the law, named after the gay centre-left Democratic party (PD) legislator Alessandro Zan and previously approved by the lower house of parliament in the face of months of protests from far-right and Catholic groups.
Pina Picierno, a PD member of the European parliament, called the vote “one of the worst pages in the history of the Italian republic”.
According to the far-right parties that voted against the bill in the upper house, the law would have suppressed freedom of expression and promoted “homosexual propaganda” in schools.
Last June, the Vatican made an unprecedented intervention urging the Italian government to change the law over concerns it would infringe upon the Catholic church’s “freedom of thought”
Debate over the approval of the bill, which would lead to people convicted of such crimes being jailed for up to four years and permit an increase in funding for groups that work to fight against discrimination and assist people who are the victims of it, came after a series of high-profile attacks against gay and transgender people.
Rights groups receive hundreds of hate crime reports each year but many go unpunished. Although Italy approved same-sex civil unions in 2016, the country has lagged behind its EU partners in creating anti-homophobia measures.
Attempts by various governments over the past three decades to enact a similar law have either been stifled or sabotaged, with any progress or even just meaningful debate stymied by a macho culture, Catholicism and support for far-right parties.
The vote at the Senate to block the bill was hailed by Matteo Salvini’s far-right League and Brothers of Italy, led by Giorgia Meloni.
Salvini said “the arrogance of the PD and M5S has been defeated” and said the debate should now restart from a League bill allowing the freedom of expression.
The League senator and Family Day founder Simone Pillon said on Facebook: “Bye Bye Zan. There is still hope in Italy.”
The foreign minister and ex-M5S leader Luigi Di Maio said the bill had been “swept away in a disgraceful secret vote” while the Gaynet Roma group said it was a “slap in the face for the majority of the population”.
The M5S leader and former prime minister Giuseppe Conte said: “Those who are rejoicing at this sabotage should explain it to the country”.
“They wanted to stop the future. They wanted to bring Italy back in history,” said the former prime minister and current PD leader, Enrico Letta.