- 22 Jun 21
The Vatican claim that the proposed law in its present form it could restrict the religious freedom of the Catholic Church in Italy.
The Vatican has made an unprecedented intervention to protest the Italian government's proposed law criminalising homophobia, despite a rise in hate crimes against the LGBTQ community across Europe.
The move was first reported by the Corriere della Sera on Tuesday, and was later confirmed by the Vatican foreign minister to Italy's embassy to the Holy See on June 17.
The protest is over the so-called 'Zan bill' - named for Alessandro Zan, a gay legislator of the centre-left Democratic Party. The bill has passed in the lower house of parliament and is currently being discussed in a committee in the Senate.
The Vatican believes that the law as currently written violates the 1929 Lateran Pacts, which established Vatican City as a sovereign state and regulates relations between it and Italy. A letter delivered by the British archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican’s secretary of relations with states, disagreed with the proposed legislation.
The Vatican’s letter argued that the anti-homophobia law called into question the church’s “freedom of organisation” and threatened “freedom of thought” among Catholics, and also raised concerns that private schools would be forced to organise events as part of the creation of a national day against homophobia.
The law was curated in order to make violence and hate speech against LGBTQ+ people and disabled people - as well as misogyny - a crime. The latest Vatican action has stoked up a tense debate around the bill, with its passage through the upper house now delayed by a change in government and senators with the far-right League party.
The law has also been challenged by other rightwing parties and Catholic groups as well as transphobic feminist groups, which argue that “gender identity” had been “weaponised against women”.
Italy approved same-sex civil unions in 2016, but the country has lagged behind its EU partners in creating anti-homophobia measures to protect its citizens.
In 2015, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, described Ireland’s referendum on same-sex marriage as “a defeat for humanity”. Back in March of this year, the Vatican even stated that the Catholic Church cannot bless same-sex marriages. At the time, Hot Press editor Niall Stokes reacted to the statement by querying why anyone expects such a controversial institution to ever change its ways.
“Honestly, this shouldn’t come as any surprise,” Niall Stokes said. “It is quite clear that, for all the supposedly conciliatory noises that are made on occasion by what are thought of as liberal priests, there is an abiding hostility within the Roman Catholic Church to homosexuality – and, when it comes down to it, in truth also to homosexuals. In a way, this latest intervention in Italian politics is a classic move: they are trying to present themselves as would-be victims, if an anti-homophobia law is passed, when in reality they have bullied, browbeaten, stigmatised and isolated gays throughout history. But there is a more sinister aspect to it. In predominantly Catholic countries like Poland, gays are still being targeted and assaulted, with grim regularity, just for being gays. And they are discriminated against openly. That’s where the Catholic view of homosexual acts as a sin inevitably leads. Let’s hope the Italian parliament ignores them, and passes this anti-homophobia legislation."
Meanwhile, UEFA quashed Munich’s plans to illuminate its Allianz Arena in rainbow colours in support of LGBTQ+ rights for Germany’s Euro 2020 match against Hungary on Wednesday.
NEW: UEFA will not allow rainbow illumination at Munich stadium for Germany v Hungary tomorrow night “given political context of request.” Proposes new dates. #SSN #UEFA #EURO2020 pic.twitter.com/4mmUhGYA0F
— Bryan Swanson (@skysports_bryan) June 22, 2021
European football’s governing body defended the move by claiming that the rainbow lights would contravene its rules about political and religious neutrality - despite the fact that neutrality in the face of human rights abuses is undoubtedly a political move in itself. Allowing Hungary to host games at Euro 2020 with full stadia, including a far-right section - despite their anti-LGBT laws - is also a political move.
It said due to the “political context” of the application, “a message aiming at a decision taken by the Hungarian national parliament”, Uefa had to decline the request.
Munich city council, Mayor Dieter Reiter and LGBTQ+ activists had requested the rainbow lights in protest at legislation passed by Hungary’s parliament banning gay people from featuring in school educational materials or TV shows for under-18s.
Hungary's amendments clearly breach a number of EU laws and violate international human rights norms, in particular the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, UN Human Rights Committee and the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights (Articles 11 and 21) and Treaty on the European Union (Articles 2 and 6).
To the frustration of activist groups, UEFA recommended instead that Munich authorities illuminate the stadium on Christopher Street Day on 28 June, or during Pride Week in Munich between 3 and 9 July. Reiter rejected the suggestion as a “ridiculous counterproposal”.
In a statement he said: “I find it shameful that Uefa forbids us from setting an example for diversity, tolerance, respect and solidarity.” He also criticised the German football federation, DFB, calling it “disappointing” that it had failed to stand up to UEFA and support Munich’s request. “The DFB, despite the overwhelming approval from all over the country, has not been willing to position itself to influence the result,” Reiter said.