Vatican Accused of 'Unprecedented' Interference to Stop LGBT Anti-Discrimination Law

Activists accused the Vatican of "unprecedented" interference with its formal opposition to a proposed Italian law that would boost anti-LGBT discrimination protections.

Milan's Corriere della Sera reported that Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Vatican foreign minister, dispatched a letter to the Italian ambassador to the Holy See asking for changes to the prospective legislation on the grounds it breached a diplomatic agreement between Italy and the Vatican. Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni verified the city-state's leadership had sent a letter on June 17, but did explain its contents, the Associated Press reported.

The Vatican took issue with a requirement in the proposed law that all schools, including Catholic institutions, would have to coordinate anti-homophobia and transphobia activities on an established national day, the Corriere reported. Politicians and advocacy organizations in Italy believe the Vatican's objections to the proposed Zan Law have a goal of barring the legislation from being realized entirely, the Associated Press reported.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Italy LGBT Rights
Italian lawmaker Alessandro Zan paints a bench in the colors of the rainbow, in Milan, Italy. The Vatican has formally opposed proposed Italian legislation that seeks expanding anti-discrimination protections to people who are gay and transgender, along with women and people with disabilities, the leading Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported on Tuesday. Activists immediately denounced Vatican meddling in the Italian legislative process as “unprecedented." Luca Bruno/AP Photo

In the past, the Vatican has objected to Italian laws legalizing abortion and divorce and backed unsuccessful referendums after the fact to try to repeal them.

The proposed law adds women and people who are gay, transgender or have disabilities to the classes of those protected under a law banning discrimination and punishing hate crimes. It was approved by the lower house last November, but remains stalled in a Senate commission by objections from Italy's right wing.

"We support the Zan law, and naturally we are open to dialogue,'' on any legal issues, Democratic Party leader Enrico Letta told RAI state radio Tuesday. But he said his party wants to see the law enacted, calling it "a law of civilization."

An atheist group in Italy protested the Vatican's actions, saying they "violated the independence and the sovereignty of the Republic."

"The government has the political and moral obligation to not only just resist pressure but to unilaterally denounce this unprecedented interference in state affairs," the secretary of the Union of Atheists and Agnostic Rationalists, Roberto Grendene, said in a statement.

A gay-rights group, Gay Party for LGBT+ Rights, called on Premier Mario Draghi's government to reject the Vatican's interference "and improve the law so that it truly has, at its heart, the fight against homophobia and transphobia."

"We find worrying the Vatican meddling in the law against homophobia," said the group's spokesman, Fabrizio Marrazzo.

Marrazzo said Gay Pride Parades in Milan and Rome on Saturday would send a clear message from the streets on the topic "and defend the laicity of the state."

Archbishop Paul Gallagher
The Holy See Secretary of State Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters. Gallagher, sent a letter last week to the Italian ambassador to the Holy See saying the contents of the proposed law violate Italy’s diplomatic agreement with the Vatican, seeking changes, Corriere reported. Richard Drew/AP Photo