Italy’s lower house of parliament passed a bill Wednesday that extends anti-discrimination protection to women, disabled people and members of the LGBTQ+ community, making violence against these groups a hate crime. Existing hate crime legislation only protects people from racial, religious and ethnic discrimination.
Under this law, people convicted of hate crimes against these newly protected groups could face up to four years in prison. The bill also proposes an awareness campaign in schools and provides increased funding for anti-discrimination organizations.
Recent instances of violence against queer and trans Italians spurred the legislation. In June, a 25-year-old student was hospitalized after being assaulted by seven people while holding hands with his partner. In September, 22-year-old Maria Paola Gaglione was killed by her brother Michele Antonio who disapproved of her relationship with Ciro Migliore, a trans man.
Far-right and religious groups oppose the bill, claiming that it would limit freedom of expression. They argue that the law already does enough to protect people from “violent or intolerant behavior.”
Italy has been resistant to pro-LGBTQ+ policies. It approved same-sex civil unions in 2016, but same-sex marriage is still prohibited.
The bill must now be approved by the upper house. It is expected to pass with support from the center-left majority coalition.