Italian gay rights activists have slammed as "outrageous" parliament’s rejection of a bill that sought to combat homophobic attacks, and called on the European Union to intervene.
"This parliament has betrayed justice and civility and has decided to support the violent," said Paolo Patane, head of gay rights association Arcigay.
He called on the EU "to help us face this extremely dangerous rise in homophobia, xenophobia and racism that the Italian parliament has decided to legitimise."
Italy’s chamber of deputies voted for a second time on the bill, which gay and lesbian activists said was urgently needed given a rise in the number of homophobic attacks throughout predominantly Roman Catholic Italy.
The bill, supported by the centre-left opposition Democratic Party (PD), specified "homophobia aggravation" as a crime, while seeking to allow police to act more firmly and encourage victims to report abuse more easily.
"Most of parliament chose today to side with the violent and not with victims of violence and discrimination," said PD member Anna Paola Concia, who had fought to get the bill approved after a failed first attempt in 2009.
Ruling party lawmaker Fabrizio Cicchitto defended the governing coalition’s decision and denied accusations of anti-gay sentiment, insisting that "our position is to consider gays as citizens who are the same as everyone else."
"It is for that reason that we challenge legislation singling out individuals as different under the law … which is essentially unconstitutional," he said.
But left-wing politicians and gay rights campaigners described the move as a "shameful" act by "anti-gay parties who ditch a useful measure for fighting discrimination and make themselves ridiculous in Europe’s eyes."
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