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Italy’s Puglia Region Passes Groundbreaking Law Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Transphobia, and Ableism

After years of setbacks, Italy’s Puglia region has successfully enacted a law combating homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, and ableism. The gender equality law overcame its final obstacle, defeating 321 amendments from opposition parties that aimed to dismantle the bill.

The new legislation ensures equal opportunities and treatment concerning sexual orientation, gender identity, and variations in sex characteristics. This positions Puglia with other Italian regions that have previously adopted similar legislative measures filling national legislative gaps. 

The regions that have already enacted legislation against homobitransphobic discrimination are Toscana, Piemonte, Umbria, Emilia-Romagna, Marche, Sicilia and Campania.

(National press erroneously reported the Puglia law as “the first in Italy” on LGBTQIA+ rights and against gender violence).

Mechanisms for the prevention and combatting of discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or variations in sex characteristics are built into the new law. It highlights the Puglia Region’s commitment to fostering a culture of non-discrimination, stating, “everyone has the opportunity to be themselves, freely expressing their sexual orientation, gender identity, or intersex condition.”

The legislation promotes labour policies, professional training, job placement activities, and initiatives ensuring equal access to work. It also mandates training for teachers, school staff, and parents, focusing on equal opportunities, valuing differences, countering stereotypes, and preventing bullying and cyberbullying related to sexual orientation, gender identity, or sex characteristics.

The law supports social and cultural events promoting awareness and respect, involving associations and third-sector organisations. It also includes socio-welfare and socio-health interventions and interventions for university students, offering information, counseling, and support for homosexual, transgender, transsexual, and intersex individuals and their families, along with training for sector operators.

Moreover, the Region will promote the rescue, protection, support, and reception of victims of discrimination and violence. A “Technical Table on Equal Opportunities, Equal Treatment, Prevention, and Combating of Discrimination and Violence Determined by Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, or Variations in Sex Characteristics” will be established within the Regional Social Policies Observatory. It will monitor regional and local television and radio programming for discriminatory messages and ensure adequate coverage of the law’s topics.

The Region will collaborate with information and communication entities to adopt non-discriminatory communication models.

Regional Governor Michele Emiliano called it a “great step forward”. 

“How far we have come together with associations and thousands of citizens to make Puglia a more aware and inclusive region,” he added.

Majority councillors applauded the decision, noting it supports a cultural change already underway in families all across Italy. However, the opposition viewed the law’s approval as “an act of force,” with Forza Italia and Fratelli d’Italia criticising the process as political discrimination. 

Nevertheless Council President Loredana Capone had the final word. 

“Today is a beautiful day for Puglia. In the regional council, we did what the [right-wing] national government did not want to do.”

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Puglia is well established as Italy’s top summer destination for LGBTQ+ travellers. The Italian LGBTQ+ community have been coming here for decades. The region consistently tops polls as Italy’s favourite gay summer hotspot. Year on year Gallipoli is voted Italy’s top gay summer destination and Punta della Suina Italy’s top gay beach.

Puglia’s reputation was confirmed in the 1st edition of The Rough Guide to the Top LGBTQ+ Friendly Places in Europe published in June 2023; it featured Puglia as one of only 3 Italian destinations and was listed as one of Europe’s 6 top summer destinations.

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Update: this article was updated on 11 June with a statement to make it clear that Puglia is not the first Italian region to enact similar legislative measures (as was erroneously reported in the national Italian press).

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