Controversial homophobia bill set to be discussed in House

Parts of Berlusconi's party unhappy with draft legislation

Controversial homophobia bill set to be discussed in House

Rome, July 23 - The floor of Italy's Lower House is set to start debating a controversial bill that will make homophobia a criminal offence if it is approved. The bill was given the green light late in Friday by a parliamentary commission with the votes of Premier Enrico Letta's centre-left Democratic Party (PD), ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL) party and the left-wing SEL group. But several Catholic figures within the centre-right PdL are unhappy about the bill, fearing it could curtain freedom of speech and opinion. The Catholic Church considers homosexuality a sin. So there is a possibility that the bill's passage through parliament after it reaches the floor of the House Friday could be blocked by a long series of amendments presented by opponents. Some senior PdL figures at the weekend suggested the government impose on "moratorium" on legislation on ethical measures, including the homophobia bill, although this was not backed by all of the party. Relations with Parliament Minister Dario Franceschini rejected the idea too. "A law to fight homophobia has nothing to do with ethical issues," said Franceschini, a PD member. "It regards the criminal code and the introduction of effective measures, which it has taken too long to approve. "These are urgent and cannot be delayed any longer". Letta's government is based on a fragile alliance between the PD and the PdL, two parties who were long-standing bitter rivals until they decided to work together to end two months of deadlock in April after February's inconclusive general election.

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