LGBTQ+ activists in Italy are in a moral and ethical battle against discrimination. Their opponents: leaders of the Catholic Church.
Italy has had several opportunities over the years to pass legislation that would extend existing discrimination laws, which currently protect against racial or religious discrimination, to include women and LGBTQ+ people. However, legislators in the highly Catholic country (78 percent of adults, according to a 2018 Pew Research poll) have consistently blocked such attempts.
Now, a piece of legislation drafted earlier this year by left-wing party member Alessandro Zan and the LGBTQ+ nonprofit Arcigay is underway to ensure that women and LGBTQ+ people have equal protections against discrimination under the law. In support of passage, AllOut, a digital activism organization, has organized a petition that has accumulated nearly 61,000 signatures so far.
“To the Italian Parliament and Prime Minister,” the petition reads. “Parliament is discussing a bill against homophobia, transphobia and misogyny. The time has come for Italy to follow the example of other European countries. Hatred has to stop now. Italy can no longer look away. For too many years, LGBT+ Italians have been waiting for an effective law that finally protects the victims of discrimination and violence with adequate resources and concrete policies. We urge you to pass a good law now.”
It continues, “After so many failures in passing laws tackling these issues, it is high time Italy plays its part in combating discrimination and violence based on sex, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity. Italy can no longer wait. Both the Parliament and the Government must act quickly and pass an effective law. LGBT+ people in Italy are asking for one simple thing: to be able to live and love, free from fear.”
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.
Jacopo Coghe, president of the conservative organization Pro Life and Family, opposes the law and has been urging politicians to block it, telling the Financial Times, “We don’t understand why some have to be more equal than others. The addition of gender or sexual orientation offenses [in the law] would create discrimination against all the others.”
Pope Francis, who has vocally supported LGBTQ+ people individuals but wavers when it comes to legal protections, appears to not have spoken out on this particular legislation.
Last month, Pope Frances met with parents of LGBTQ+ children to reassure that they are welcome in the Church, saying, “The Pope loves your children as they are, because they are children of God.”
Two years ago, the Pope told a gay man that God made him gay, no matter his sexuality. In the same breath, he also told bishops to keep gay men out of the priesthood. A couple years before that, he made comments warning against “gender theory,” claiming it was a “great enemy of marriage.”
In 2016, the Pope gave priests worldwide the right to forgive abortions, writing in a letter, “I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life. In the same way, however, I can and must state that there is no sin that God's mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with the Father."
The latest Europe Rainbow Map, an annual map organized by the IGLA-Europe to spotlight LGBTQ+ rights in Europe, shows that equality is still under threat.
For the second year in a row, Europe is moving backwards as existing protections are disappearing. The map also shows there has been no positive change in 49 percent of Europe, and that trans rights are where most of the current movement towards LGBTQ+ equality is happening (for better or worse).
On a scale of 0 percent to 100 percent, the map scored each country according to their respect for full LGBTQ+ equality.
The top most advanced countries were Malta (89 percent), Belgium (73 percent), Luxembourg (73 percent), Denmark (68 percent), Norway (68 percent), Spain (67 percent), and the United Kingdom, Finland and Portugal (all at 66 percent).
The worst by far were Monaco (11 percent), Russia (10 percent), Armenia (8 percent), Turkey (4 percent), and Azerbaijan (2 percent).
Italy’s score was 23 percent, one of the worst in western Europe.