(Bloomberg) -- Italy’s Senate struck down a bill that would have criminalized violence and hate speech targeting a person’s sexual orientation or identity, a setback for the country’s protection of civil rights.

The Senate on Wednesday approved a motion to cease the debate over the bill. The motion was requested by right-wing parties, including Matteo Salvini’s League and Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy who argued it would limit free speech and damage traditional Roman Catholic family values. 

The bill was put forward more than three years ago by Democratic Party lawmaker Alessandro Zan. It was approved by the parliament’s Lower House, but sparked fierce opposition by the League in the Senate, where left-wing parties have a thinner majority. 

Read more: The Sad Truth About How Italian Politics Are Holding Up LGBTQ Rights

Any new proposals to introduce LGBTQ-related hate crimes will now have to go through full approval in the parliament -- which includes the Lower House and the Senate -- and could take years. 

Italy ranks lowest in western Europe for gender equality.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.