ROME, August 5, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Today’s session of the Italian Lower House is the last opportunity Deputies will have to discuss a highly contentious “anti-homophobia” law that opponents have said will shut down and criminalize any public opposition to “gay marriage,” civil unions, or homosexuals adopting children.

Avvenire, the official newspaper of the Italian Catholic bishops’ conference, has said that, as in Britain, this law could usher in prosecutions against religious associations or clergy who publicly denounce the homosexual act as a sin.

The strongest objections have warned that Italy could be following the same path as Britain by introducing a law that would strike at freedom of thought, expression, and religious belief, all rights that are explicitly defined by the Constitution.

Critics of the bill, who include constitutional legal experts as well as the Italian Catholic bishops, have warned that the bill will make it a criminal act to publicly recite scriptural passages against homosexual activity or to repeat Catholic teaching that homosexuality is “intrinsically disordered,” or contrary to the natural law.

Despite a marathon amendment session on July 22, critics of the bill maintain that it “remains even after the changes, a dangerous legal point of view.” Gianfranco Amato, head of Giuristi per la Vita, said in a letter to parliamentarians July 28, that the bill as it stands risks “creating a sort of ‘judicial crime’” with undefined terms being inserted into existing law.

“Everything concerns us deeply,” he wrote, “because, especially in the light of what is happening in other European countries, with the new proposed rules it will be considered ‘homophobic behavior,’ for example, to publicly support preventing homosexuals and transsexuals from ‘marrying’ and adopting children, or to say that that homosexuality is a ‘serious depravity,’ citing the scriptures of the Christian religion.”

Powerful international interests are working behind the scenes to ensure the law passes. Amnesty International Italy wrote last week to all Deputies asking them to “ensure that sexual orientation and gender identity are included in the list of discriminatory grounds.”

At 6 p.m. Rome time tonight, the Deputies announced that they would be remaining in a late night session Monday night to discuss the bill. If it is passed, it will move on to the Senate.

Tonight legislators in support of the bill have complained that the more than 400 amendments introduced in the Lower House have gutted its main provisions. Michela Marzano, a Deputy with the Partito Democratico who supports the bill, told La Repubblica, “First, the text comes here incomplete. It lacks all of the aggravating circumstances for homophobia and transphobia that we proposed as amendments, so I don’t know if it will be OK. No, it would just be an empty law and even I would vote no.”

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

While the bill had been introduced by a bipartisan group working with homosexual lobbying organizations, some of these supporters are now withdrawing, saying that the amendments have left it without teeth. Arcigay, the country’s main homosexual pressure group, has said the bill has been a “wasted opportunity.” This is the third attempt by the Left to bring such a law into being, with the last, in 2009, having been defeated by a majority of Deputies on the grounds of its “unconstitutionality.”

The bill proposes to amend existing anti-discrimination law – intended to protect from violent assaults motivated by ethnic, racial, national, or religious hatred – by inserting the concept of sexual orientation as a specially protected category. Opponents were especially alarmed by Article 4, that allowed people convicted of “homophobic or transphobic” offenses to be remanded to “re-education” after their custodial sentences. This wording could have forced opponents to become directly involved in promoting the homosexual movement’s goals.

The removed wording had allowed the courts to “apply compulsorily or optionally...the imposition of an ancillary penalty of non-remunerated activities on behalf of the community by the condemned.”

“Among the subjects where such activity can be undertaken, are associations that deal with protection of homosexuals and transsexuals. Self-employed activity in favor of the community shall be carried out at the end of atonement of the sentence of imprisonment for a term between six months and a year,” it said.

In its current version, the bill proposes to allow imprisonment from six months to four years for anyone “who, in any way, incites people to commit acts of violence or provocation of violence” motivated by “homophobia or transphobia.”

It will also outlaw any “organization, association, movement or group that has among its purposes incitement to discrimination or violence on racial, ethnic, national or religious [grounds], or based on homophobia or transphobia.” It will allow from six months to four years in prison for participating in associations criticizing homosexuality, and one to six years for founding or chairing such associations.

Giancarlo Cerelli, a lawyer and vice president of the National Union of Italian Catholic Jurists, said tonight at a roundtable discussion broadcast on Radio Maria that “despite the amendments,” the text of the bill “continues to seriously undermine the freedom of thought, opinion and religious freedom.” The revised text no longer contains definitions of “sexual orientation” or “gender identity,” but retains the undefined terms “homophobia” and “transphobia.” He said these terms, “completely alien to our criminal law, must be interpreted from time to time by the judiciary, with unpredictable outcomes”.

“The Act, therefore, far from being an ‘act of civilization,’ as is defined by the promoters, is, rather, a ‘glitch’ in our legal system which already widely protects, with precise rules, among other things, any abuse of homosexuals,” Cerelli said.

See related article, "Hundreds expected to protest anti-free speech ‘homophobia’ law in Rome, Paris."