Italy’s lower house of parliament on Wednesday passed an anti-discrimination invoice that makes violence against women and LGBT+ people a hate crime, with those found guilty of such attacks risking longer jail terms.
The invoice was once approved by 265 votes to 193 in the 630-member chamber and now needs a last green light from the upper house Senate, where it has the toughen of the ruling coalition parties, before fitting law.
It modifies an existing law punishing offences based on someone’s race or religion with up to four years in prison.
“This can be a big step forward against discrimination, hatred and violence,” Alessandro Zan, the openly homosexual lawmaker who promoted the law, wrote on Twitter.
The change was once championed by the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), but faced opposition from right-wing parties and the Italian Roman Catholic Church, which said existing protections were strong enough.
The conservative crusade group Pro Life and Circle of relatives has said the invoice will make LGBT+ people “more equal than others”, while Italian bishops warned final June that the new law could curb dissenting opinions, including that a circle of relatives requires the union of a man and a woman.
Zan has denied that the invoice would impinge on free speech, saying it would only punish those who incite hatred.
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 every year, but a large number of attempts over the past 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 frequently been marked by strong opposition from Catholic and conservative groups.
(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.)
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