Italian bishops have raised concerns over proposed legislation against "homophobia" in Italy, claiming changes to the law are unnecessary and have the potential to infringe on the civil liberties of those who oppose same-sex unions.

A statement from the administration of the Italian bishops’ conference June 10 expressed reservations about bills against “homotransphobic crimes” being considered by Italian legislators.

In the protection of the person in Italian law “not only is there no regulatory vacuum, but also there are no gaps which justify the urgency of new provisions,” the bishops wrote.

They also said that introducing further legal penalties on discrimination risked infringing on freedom of speech.

“Rather than punishing discrimination -- it would end up striking the expression of a legitimate opinion, as learned by the experience of the legal systems of other nations in which similar internal regulations have already been introduced,” the statement said.

The bishops gave the example of criminal proceedings against people “who believe the family requires a dad and a mom…” These sort of proceedings introduce “a crime of opinion,” they said.

The statement appeared to make reference to discrimination suits against business owners in the U.S. who have declined to provide services for same-sex weddings, citing the belief that marriage is between one man and one woman, or that one’s birth sex cannot be changed, as in the case of a Colorado baker.

According to the Italian bishops’ statement, discrimination, including that based on a person’s sexual orientation, is a “violation of human dignity” and “injurious treatments, threats, aggressions, injuries, bullying, stalking…” are attacks on the sacredness of human life and must be opposed.

The statement said that in this regard, however, Italy’s legal system already had adequate safeguards against violent and persecutory actions, and it encouraged the promotion of education and “dialogue” instead.

“There is no need for mutual controversy or ostracism on this, but availability for an authentic and intellectually honest discussion,” the bishops said.

“To the extent that this dialogue takes place in freedom, both respect for the person and the democracy of the country will benefit.”