The Italian Senate on Wednesday blocked a controversial draft law against homophobia that was vehemently opposed by right-wing parties and the Vatican. The law sought to punish acts of discrimination and incitement to violence against gay, lesbian, transgender and disabled people. But critics of the law said it risked endangering freedom of expression and would have paved the way for homosexual propaganda in schools. In a 154-131 vote called by the far-right League and Brothers of Italy parties, the upper house agreed to block its passage through parliament after it was approved last November by the lower house. The vote was secret, meaning that lawmakers did not have to publicly declare their position, allowing several of them to defy their party’s line. The outcome is a betrayal “of a political pact that wanted the country to take a step towards civilisation”, the main sponsor of the bill, Alessandro Zan, wrote on Twitter. In June, the Vatican took the unprecedented step of lodging a formal diplomatic complaint against the law, saying it breached the Concordat, the bilateral treaty between Italy and the Holy See. Notably, the Vatican was concerned that under the homophobia law, Catholics risked prosecution for expressing opinions in favour of traditional heterosexual family structures. In response, Prime Minister Mario Draghi said parliament was “free” to legislate on the issue, as Italy “is a secular state, not a confessional state”.