The Vatican has delivered a protest to Italy’s embassy over a bill intended to combat homophobia, the Corriere della Sera confirmed Tuesday. The “Zan Bill,” named after Democratic legislator Alessandro Zan, is a response to rising homophobic crime that would criminalize discriminatory conduct on the basis of sex, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Vatican Secretariat of State wrote that such criminalization “would have the effect of negatively impacting the freedoms assured to the Catholic Church,” and in doing so violates the Lateran Pacts, which establish Vatican City as a sovereign state and provide religious freedoms in its relationship with Italy. In particular, the Vatican protests that the bill threatens its religious freedom to oppose adoptions by gay couples and refuse to conduct gay marriages or teach gender theory in Catholic schools in Italy.
One of the main sources of protest is the Vatican’s fear that gender theory calling for equal recognition of nonbinary and transgender people as part of the family will be incompatible with Catholic teachings. Roman Bishops in April protested that the bill’s aims of anti-discrimination “cannot seek that objective through intolerance and by questioning the reality of the difference between men and women.” Vatican officials informed Catholic newspaper Crux that legal protections for gender and sexual expressions reflect “ideological colonization.”
The unusual move by the Vatican to involve itself in Italy’s legislation has been praised by the far-right party in Italy’s Parliament and criticized by the Democratic party and human rights groups. Italian foreign ministry undersecretary Benedetto Della Vedova told the Washington Post that the letter constituted “heavy interference” and noted that the Vatican had not attempted to influence Italy’s legislation in the past.
The Vatican and far-right party argue that freedoms of religion and expression include the protection of traditional family values and sex differences, arguing that opposition on religious grounds should not be criminalized. The Bill seeks to make hate speech against LGBTQ+ people a crime and enact harsher penalties on those who commit violence for homophobic or sexist reasons. According to Rainbow Europe, Italy has some of the weakest laws and policies protecting LGBTQ+ rights in Europe and some of the highest instances of violence.
The bill has passed the Parliament’s Lower House and is currently being debated in a Senate committee.