Italy’s LGBT Zan Bill Rejected
In a rare victory for pro-family activists, Italian senators have voted down a bill that would have banned so-called “hate speech” based upon “sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability.”
The Zan Bill was named after homosexualist activist and Democratic party legislator Alessandro Zan. It had already passed the Lower House of Parliament by 265 to 193 votes in November 2020.
However, in a 154 to 131 vote in late October, the Senate voted to block the debate on the law, effectively quashing it.
In addition to extending “hate speech” provisions to cover such things as gender identity and sexual orientation, the bill would also have instituted a “National Day Against Homophobia, Lesbophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia.” This would have been celebrated in schools throughout the country.
This provision, in particular, had raised the ire of the Catholic Church and proponents of traditional values in Italy. Essentially, the government was mandating a day of propaganda in schools favoring a moral worldview with which many parents quite rightly disagree.
Those who violated the law could have been punished with up to 18 months in prison or a hefty fine of €6,000.
‘Hate Crime’ Bills as Trojan Horse
It goes without saying that any unjust discrimination and violence perpetrated against homosexual or transgender individuals must be condemned. The Catholic Catechism is quite clear on this point in paragraph 2358, where it states: “Every sign of unjust discrimination [against homosexual individuals] should be avoided.”
However, we must not be naïve and credulously believe advocates of laws like this when they claim that their only intent is to protect homosexual individuals from unjust discrimination.
Proponents of these laws know quite well that not only does the law penalize, but it also educates. The intent of such bills is to transform society, both by frightening into silence those who believe in age-old Judeo-Christian sexual ethics, and by targeting the youngest generation with propaganda designed to change their minds, regardless of what their parents might think. In this case, the inclusion of the provision implementing the “National Day Against Homophobia” was a dead giveaway.
As John Allen at Crux reported several months ago, “Among other points, critics say the anti-homophobia measure currently under consideration by the Italian senate could require private Catholic schools to adjust curricula to adopt state-mandated lessons on tolerance and gender, and it could also criminalize some public expressions of Catholic teaching on sexuality and marriage.”
Indeed, the experience in almost every jurisdiction where hate speech laws have been extended to cover homosexuality or gender identity is that very quickly those laws get interpreted broadly to clamp down even on such things as quoting Bible verses condemning homosexual behavior.
This, of course, is the main problem with these hate speech laws. Originally, hate speech laws were designed to ban hateful speech against individuals based upon immutable characteristics such as race or gender. However, the complicating factor with homosexuality and transgenderism, is that these are intimately connected with a variety of voluntary behaviors that violate the teachings of many religions and ethical systems.
It is only too easy for some judge or legislator to use these laws to argue that anyone who states that homosexual behavior is immoral, or who opposes such things as morally problematic gay pride events, is by that very fact expressing hate. In many cases, however, the reality will be precisely the opposite: that people expressing these views are doing so out of love for homosexual individuals.
The Vatican’s Unprecedented Intervention
Although Pope Francis has sometimes made strong statements on topics like gender theory, in general he and the Vatican under his direction have tended to chart a much more conciliatory and low-key course on sexual issues. Indeed, some of the Holy Father’s words have understandably caused confusion on sexual topics, starting with his famous (or infamous) remark “who am I to judge?” early in his pontificate.
And yet, the Vatican came out quite strongly against the Zan Bill, especially given the Vatican’s tendency to avoid the appearance of meddling in the political affairs of other countries. In June, the Vatican took the unprecedented move of invoking its status under the 1929 Lateran Pacts Treaty, sending a private letter to the Italian Ambassador to the Vatican, Pietro Sebastiani.
While the text of the letter sent from the Vatican was not revealed publicly, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Parolin, did give an interview explaining the reasoning behind the letter. The proposed law, he said, is “too vague,” and risks “making any possible distinction between man and woman punishable, with consequences that can prove to be paradoxical and which in our opinion should be avoided as long as there is time.”
Cardinal Parolin said that the Vatican did not ask Italy to “block the law,” but rather expressed misgivings about “problems that could arise if a test with vague and uncertain contents were adopted, which would end up shifting the definition of what is a crime and what is not at the judicial stage, but without giving the judge the necessary parameters to distinguish.”
As John Allen reported at the time, the Lateran Pacts, “which created the Vatican City State after the loss of the Papal States amid Italian unification in the 19th century, affords the Vatican the opportunity to assert its rights to the Italian government.” However, the Vatican had never invoked this status previously – at least not that we know of – which demonstrates the unusual level of concern within the Vatican about this law.
Catholics Must Educate Themselves
We live in a time of great confusion on sexual matters. On the one hand, some people rightly emphasize that homosexual and transgender individuals enjoy the dignity that every human being possesses, and that any form of hatred or unjust discrimination against them must be avoided and condemned. On the other hand, extremely crafty activists and propagandists have minted language designed to convince people that any objection whatsoever to homosexual lifestyles or bizarre and anti-scientific theories of sexuality and gender are de facto hatred. The only ‘loving’ response, we are constantly told, is total, unqualified, enthusiastic support for every form of sexual behavior or expression.
In the midst of this chaos, Catholics need to educate themselves with the mind of the Church, reading the thoughtful documents that have been put out by the Vatican. This includes the “Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons,” put out by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) under Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, and approved by St. Pope John Paul II. The CDF under Cardinal Ratzinger also produced the letter, “Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons.”
Particularly relevant in terms of this recent law, however, is the letter, “Some Considerations Concerning the Response to Legislative Proposals on the Non-Discrimination of Homosexual Persons.”
In this letter the CDF noted that while “unjust discrimination” must be opposed, “There are areas in which it is not unjust discrimination to take sexual orientation into account, for example, in the placement of children for adoption or foster care, in employment of teachers or athletic coaches, and in military recruitment.”
In a prescient passage the CDF warned:
Including “homosexual orientation” among the considerations on the basis of which it is illegal to discriminate can easily lead to regarding homosexuality as a positive source of human rights, for example, in respect to so-called affirmative action or preferential treatment in hiring practices. This is all the more deleterious since there is no right to homosexuality (cf. no. 10) which therefore should not form the basis for judicial claims. The passage from the recognition of homosexuality as a factor on which basis it is illegal to discriminate can easily lead, if not automatically, to the legislative protection and promotion of homosexuality. A person’s homosexuality would be invoked in opposition to alleged discrimination, and thus the exercise of rights would be defended precisely via the affirmation of the homosexual condition instead of in terms of a violation of basic human rights. (no. 13)
The CDF also indicated that it could be “inappropriate” for Church authorities to support anti-discrimination laws that could harm the common good, even if those laws include exceptions for the Church and her institutions. “The Church has the responsibility to promote family life and the public morality of the entire civil society on the basis of fundamental moral values,” noted the CDF, “not simply to protect herself from the application of harmful laws (cf. no. 17).” (no. 16)
Fortunately, the Vatican took its own advice with regard to the Italian Zan Bill. While it’s impossible to say how much influence the Vatican had in bringing about the rejection of this bill, there seems little doubt that Italian legislators took note of the Vatican’s opposition. For now, at least, pro-family Italians can breathe a little easier.
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Father Shenan J. Boquet was ordained in 1993 and is a priest of the Houma-Thibodaux Roman Catholic Diocese in Louisiana, his home state, where he served before joining HLI as its President in August 2011. Father Boquet earned a BA from Saint Joseph Seminary College, a Master of Divinity (MDiv) from Notre Dame Seminary Graduate School of Theology, a Certification Program in Health Care Ethics from the National Catholic Bioethics Center, and a Master of Science in Bioethics (MSBe) from the University of Mary in Bismarck. In 2018, Father Boquet was awarded an honorary visiting professorship by the Benedict XVI Catholic University in Trujillo, Peru. He is available for interviews and bookings on behalf of HLI by emailing email@example.com.