Catalonia passes controversial anti-homophobia legislation

Conservatives object to requirement that accused must prove innocence

The Catalan legislature on Thursday passed anti-homophobia laws.
The Catalan legislature on Thursday passed anti-homophobia laws.ALBERT GARCIA

After two failed attempts, Catalonia on Thursday passed a law to protect gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals (LGTB) from homophobic attacks.

The legislation earned support from the Catalan Socialists, Convergència (one half of the CiU bloc that rules the region) and several left-wing parties.

The conservative Popular Party (PP) and the Catalan nationalists of Unió voted against the law because they disagree with the fact that the person accused of homophobic acts will have to prove his innocence, reversing the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

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Detractors of the new law also dislike the fact that there are sanctions for those found guilty of this hate crime.

The bill had been left in the back burner after the PP lodged an appeal on the grounds that it incurred in “excessive positive discrimination” and possibly “encroaches on the state’s powers over penal matters.”

“Without sanctions, this law would be a mere statement of intent. This is meant as a deterrent,” defended Anna Simó, of the leftist Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC).

The issue of the proof of guilt has been a matter of debate among jurists, but supporters noted that it is also this way in cases of gender violence.

I feel furious when someone plays down the discrimination that we gays have suffered”

The Catalan Socialist Miquel Iceta was one of the most vocal defenders of the law.

“I feel furious when someone appears to deny or play down the discrimination that we gays have suffered or run the risk of suffering,” said Iceta, one of the first Spanish politicians to come out of the closet. “They speak derisively of a gay lobby. But look at this room! This is not a group of people working undercover to achieve illegitimate goals. This is a group working to defend the rights of everyone.”

According to the Catalan Attorney’s Office for Hate Crimes, there is one case of homophobia every day, said CUP deputy David Fernández.

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