Italy: Gay activists to campaign against ‘dangerous’ anti-homophobia bill

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LGBT activists have criticised the new bill set to criminalise homophobic hate crimes in Italy, saying that it is a “dangerous compromise” that will not change homophobic attitudes in the country.

The proposed bill, which would make homophobic discrimination a criminal offence in the country, was given the green light late on Monday evening by a parliamentary commission with the votes of Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s centre-left Democratic Party (PD), ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom (PdL) party, and the left-wing SEL group.

It is due to be voted on by Parliament some time this Friday or next week.

However, although the purpose of the bill is to criminalise homophobia, an Italian LGBT rights groups has come out to say that it is both “useless” and “dangerous”.

In an interview with Gay Star News, the president of the Italian LGBT association ‘Circolo di Cultura Omosessuale Mario Mieli’ (Circle of Gay Culture), Andrea Maccarrone reportedly said: “This bill is a compromise between the left and the right.

“There’s no specific punishment for gay hate, but the crimes will be punished according to the existing rules.

“Then, the bill uses the words ‘homophobia’ and ‘transphobia’, which are not used all over the world. It should include, instead, the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity”, as it happens in the most civilized countries.

He added: “We cannot forget that, even though the law is going to be approved in the lower chamber, it has to be approved by the Senate as well, and there we’ll find opposition from the right-wing parties.

“Now the right-wing parties are trying to stop the law, saying that it would delete the freedom of speech and of opinion.

“But they don’t understand that the freedom of speech can not be more important than the personal and civil rights.’

The Circolo Mario Mieli is set to campaign against the bill this Friday in front of Montecitorio, which is the seat of the Italian Chamber of Deputies.

According to the activists, the coalition government between left-wing PD and right-wing Berlusconi’s party, PdL, is looking for a “compromise” which will be “dangerous” for the LGBT community.

The former member of Parliament and former LGBT association president Franco Grillini has also shown his support for the activists.

Mr Grillini said: “This is a very bad compromise. We missed the opportunity to have a good law. Nothing is going to change with this bill.

“The only good thing is that, for the first time, the Italian law will recognize the existence of the LGBT community.

“This is why the Vatican, the Catholics of the PD party and the homophobes of the right-wing party PDL do not want this law.

He added: “They don’t want to recognize the existence of the LGBT community, because they fear that some more laws will come, maybe introducing civil partnership or some other basic rights.

“I think also that this law is going to be postponed. Next week is the last one before the summer holidays and, if the law does not pass through the lower chamber of Parliament, it will be voted in September.

“I think that this law is ‘acqua fresca’, as we say in Italian, that is ‘fresh water’. It means it is not a real law protecting LGBT people, but it is just appeasing them.”

In 2010, Circolo Mario Mieli also attended a protest against the Catholic Church during Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Twickenham in West London.

Silvio Berlusconi of PdL, who was the Italian Prime Minister from 2008-2011, was known for being an opponent on LGBT rights.

In March 2011, he declared that gay couples in Italy would never be allowed to marry or have adoption rights.

The year before, when faced with charges of having underage sex with prostitutes at his ‘bunga bunga’ parties, Berlusconi replied:

“I have a gruelling work schedule and if I happen to look pretty girls in the face now and then, well then, it’s better to be a fan of pretty women than to be gay.”