Italian senate voted to block Zan bill on Wednesday.
Rallies were held in dozens of Italian cities last night in response to the senate's rejection of the Zan bill that would have made violence against LGBTQ people and disabled people, as well as misogyny, a hate crime.
Thousands of people assembled at Milan's Arco della Pace, chanting "We will not give up", in a protest organised by Arcigay, Sentinelli Milano and Coordinamento Arcobaleno.
Slamming the 154 senators who voted against the bill in a secret ballot, Sentinelli spokesman Luca Paladini said: "They have given even more strength, legitimacy to those who hate us, to those who view homosexuality as a sickness, to those who treat the disabled in an unworthy way."
There was particular indignation reserved for Matteo Renzi, the former Italian premier and leader of the centrist Italia Viva party, who chose to fly to Saudi Arabia on the day of the vote.
One speaker at the Milan rally told how he had suffered homophobic abuse and was hospitalised for months after being beaten up "on the street, in broad daylight, all because I had silver hair."
Other protests were held in Brescia, Mantua, Florence and Palermo, while in Rome hundreds of people gathered in the shadow of the Colosseum on Via S. Giovanni in Laterano, known as "Gay Street", to express their bitterness at the senate vote.
"You have sunk the Zan bill but you will not bury our voices", one of the protest signs said. "You have stopped the law, you will not stop the struggle", read another.
Among the protesters in Rome was transgender former MEP Vladimir Luxuria who claimed the senate "has shown that it does not even want to discuss the bill, which could have been amended if they wanted."
Describing the vote as a "missed opportunity for Italy", Luxuria said: "What do we tell the mothers who have seen their children come home with bruises on them? Now these people feel less protected and safeguarded and ask themselves: 'Where is the state?'"
Background to the Zan bill
Named after the centre-left Partito Democratico (PD) politician and gay rights activist Alessandro Zan, the bill modifies an existing law to allow crimes including racist violence, hatred and discrimination to be punished with up to four years in jail.
The motion in the senate to block the Zan bill, which was approved in November by the lower house of parliament, was put forward by right-wing parties Lega and Fratelli d'Italia (Fdl).
The Zan bill was backed by the PD and the populist Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S), among others, however conservatives say the law would have hampered freedom of expression, with the Lega party describing it as "divisive and ideological."
Those to the right of the debate objected in particular to a proposal that Italy's schools would mark a national day against homophobia, transphobia and biphobia.
The move to halt the bill comes after sustained lobbying from conservative groups and even the Vatican which feared that the proposed law could curb the religious freedom of the Catholic Church.
Cover photo Corriere della Sera Milan
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Zan: Italy protests over defeat of anti-homophobia bill
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