ROME, July 23 (UPI) -- Italy's lower house of Parliament began debating Tuesday a bill that would make homophobia a criminal offense, officials said.
The bill was approved Monday by a parliamentary commission that included the votes of Prime Minister Enrico Letta's center-left Democratic Party, former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom Party and the left-wing SEL party, ANSA reported.
Critics of the bill -- including many Catholics in Berlusconi's party -- said the bill, if passed, would put too many restrictions on freedom of speech and opinion. The bill could be blocked by a series of amendments, ANSA said.
Some senior People of Freedom Party members suggested a moratorium on legislation on ethical issues, such as the homophobia bill.
"A law to fight homophobia has nothing to do with ethical issues," said Relations with Parliament Minister Dario Franceschini, a Democratic Party member. "It regards the criminal code and the introduction of effective measures, which it has taken too long to approve. These are urgent and cannot be delayed any longer."