Italian church officials are voicing their opposition to a potential non-discrimination law aimed at protecting LGBTQ people and women, legislation which advocates have sought to pass for years.
Out reported that Alessandro Zan, a left wing politician, worked with Arcigay, an Italian LGBTQ advocacy group, to draft a bill that would establish non-discrimination protections based on sexual and gender identities. More than 64,000 people have signed a petition (available here) in support of the legislation. Out’s report continued:
“The proposal has gained significant attention in Italy following a recent string of violent LGBTQ+ hate crimes, most notably an incident that happened earlier this year involving a 25-year-old victim who was attacked by seven people when he was walking on the street with his boyfriend. The attack required him to have facial reconstruction surgery.
“Despite the fervent outcry from activists, right-wingers and ultra conservatives in the Catholic Church are fighting against them and are seemingly doing everything they can to smear their efforts.
“Brothers of Italy, a conservative political party that represents Italian bishops, opposes the legislation. In fact, they said at the Italian Bishops’ conference this year that the new law would be the ‘death of liberty’.
“According to The Guardian, a priest in Puglia actually held a vigil to pray for the law’s failure a couple months ago: ‘If you express an opinion against homosexuals, or don’t agree with two men adopting a child, you could end up in jail,’ he reportedly said.”
Out also noted that Pope Francis has not commented on the potential law. While he has previously weighed in on LGBTQ legislation in some countries (e.g., when Slovakia held a referendum on marriage equality and adoption equality in 2015), it is unlikely he will comment either way on Italian politics.
The reality is that Italy desperately needs to improve conditions for its LGBTQ community, including expanding non-discrimination protections. IGLA-Europe rated Italy at just 23 of 100 points on its annual Europe Rainbow Map about LGBTQ rights, the lowest score in Western Europe and the 34th worst score of Europe’s 49 countries.
Unlike the claims of some Italian politicians and priests, protecting LGBTQ people and women from harassment and violence is not the “death of liberty,” nor will it lead to opponents of LGBTQ equality being criminalized. Their rhetoric is unnecessarily inflammatory besides being baseless.
Rather than Italy’s Catholic identity stymieing LGBTQ equality, the church’s traditions are the very reason why advances towards greater equality for all should be made. If Italians need inspiration for how to proceed, they need only look to neighboring Malta, which itself is highly Catholic and which scored 89% on IGLA-Europe’s index, ranking it number one in all Europe.
But whatever the reasons, it is time for equal rights in Italy. Or, in the words of the pro-LGBTQ petitioners mentioned above, “Hatred has to stop now. Italy can no longer look away.”
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, October 10, 2020