ROME (Reuters) - Prime Minister Mario Draghi put the Vatican on guard on Wednesday not to interfere with a parliamentary debate over a draft law designed to combat homophobia, saying Italy was a secular state.
The Vatican earlier this month protested to Italy over the contested bill, saying that in its present form it could restrict the religious freedom of the Catholic Church in Italy.
But Draghi, a practicing Catholic, said parliament was free to discuss laws and legislate. "Ours is a secular state, not a religious state," he told the upper chamber Senate.
He added that Italy also had checks and balances in the system to make sure it met its international obligations.
"Our legal system contains all the guarantees to ensure that laws always respect constitutional principles and international commitments, including the concordat with the Church," he said.
Draghi was referring to the 1929 Lateran Pacts, which established the Vatican City as a sovereign state and regulates relations between it and Italy.
The Vatican, in a letter delivered to Italy's embassy to the Holy See, argued that the draft law could restrict religious freedom guaranteed the church under that accord.
(Reporting by Angelo Amante; Editing by Crispian Balmer)