Italian Evangelical Alliance debate on the draft law against homotransphobia: serious concerns remain
Political representatives joined a live online conversation with evangelicals. The definition of “discrimination” and the protection of freedom of speech were some of the issues addressed.
Italian Evangelical Alliance · ROME · 09 JULY 2020 · 13:25 CET
As is the custom of the Italian Evangelical Alliance (AEI), when faced with public discussions on sensitive issues and on which there are some current draft laws, the service rendered to the evangelical population and to public opinion in general is to offer opportunities for discussion and for plural debates.
The various positions are listened to and they interact with each other. This is what happened with the draft law against homotransphobia, whose unified text has been deposited in the Italian Chamber in the last days and which will be discussed in the coming weeks and months.
The awaited discussion took place on Friday, 3 July, and the video recording is available on the AEI You Tube channel.
Rapporteur defends criminal and pedagogic aspects of the law
After the greeting of the President of the AEI Giacomo Ciccone, Alessandro Zan (PD, Social Democrats), rapporteur of the draft law, took the floor.
Zan referred to the many cases of violence against LGBTI people and to the need for protection in their defence. He explained both the criminal part of the document (which extends the Mancino law to incitement to violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity) and the “pedagogical” part aimed at fighting “prejudice”.
He assured that there will be no setback for the freedom of speech for those who have a critical opinion on homosexuality and transgenderism.
Evangelical concern about the definition of “discrimination” and “gender identity”
AEI Vice-president Leonardo De Chirico took the floor saying that evangelicals, being a historical minority in Italy, are sensitive to the issue of the treatment of minorities. However, they want to work together to build a society where differences, even irreducible ones such as those related to the vision of sexuality, are not criminalised.
He expressed a concern: that the offense indicated in the law is too general (what is "discrimination"? There can be many meanings), indefinite and linked to expressions such as "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" that are poorly defined.
The fear is that the judiciary will be called to define those terms and that a climate of cultural intimidation will emerge for those who do not think like the LGBTI movement. Bringing differences to court, instead of comparing them civilly in society, is a real risk. De Chirico therefore proposed to consider the "Waddington amendment" as a possible way out. In a similar law in Great Britain, the following clause was included to protect freedom of speech: "to avoid misunderstandings, the debate or criticism of sexual conduct or practices or encouraging people to abstain or modify such conduct or practices are not considered in themselves threatening or destined to foment hatred".
The risks of social pressure
Senator Lucio Malan noted that the intentions expressed by supporters of the draft law are one thing, but the text contains reasons for concern. The case of the pastry chef who refused to bake the "wedding" cake for a gay couple and who was sent to court convicted of discrimination and incitement to hatred shows us that in reality a generic law is likely to be used against those who do not share gender theories. He also focused on the "pedagogical" part of the draft law that talks about teaching gender doctrine in public schools.
Member of the European Parliament Annalisa Tardino (Lega) recalled that the Italian legal system is "civil law" and therefore a law must assume due responsibility of specifying the terms used in order not to risk being applied indiscriminately. The generic expressions used in the draft law are dangerous.
Furthermore, citing official data, she recalled that there are 26 reported cases of violence per year, a phenomenon certainly to be condemned and repressed, but it is not of social urgency nature. In this time of widespread crisis, the Parliament should focus on other priorities.
The debate allowed all the speakers to reply and interact with each other. The Italian Evangelical Alliance says the “Evangelical culture has contributed to the ongoing discussion by expressing a willingness to listen and to participate critically” in such debates.
If the draft law arrives to the Senate, the AEI will ask to participate officially in the preliminary hearings.