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Italy Gay Rights: Same-Sex Civil Unions OK'd, but Not Marriages

Image: Italy Gay Rights: Same-Sex Civil Unions OK'd, but Not Marriages

A man protests in front of Parliament during the final vote on gay and unmarried civil unions. (REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi)

Thursday, 12 May 2016 08:18 AM

Italy extended legal recognition to same-sex relationships on Wednesday with parliament backing gay civil unions after a long battle to overcome opposition led by the Catholic church, but stopped short of marriage and adoption, reported Agency France-Presse.

Lawmakers in the lower-house Chamber of Deputies voted 372-51 in favour of the legislation with 99 abstentions after an earlier vote of confidence in the government on the issue had been equally comfortably carried, making approval of the bill itself automatic.

The long-awaited and much-disputed legislation was hailed as a landmark but also criticized as falling short of full equality for gay couples, particularly in relation to adoption and marriage rights.

Monica Cirinna, the senator who was the main author of the bill, said she expected the first civil union ceremonies "no later than September" and dismissed opponents who vowed to seek a referendum aimed at overturning the law.

"We will welcome that with open arms. It will allow us to push on to equal marriage even sooner," she said. "Italy will reject medieval bigotry and conservativism."

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who had backed the bill but largely stayed out of the debate, called the confidence vote to short-circuit potential last-minute blocking or delaying amendments by opponents of the legislation, who include rebels in his own party as well as the Catholic right.

"Today is a day of celebration for so many people," the centre-left leader wrote on his Facebook page, framing the vote as another victory for his reform program.

The government used the same confidence vote tactic to get the bill approved by the upper house Senate in February, but only after the original text had been diluted to appease opponents threatening to scupper it altogether.

A draft article that would have granted gay couples the right to adopt their partners' biological children was dropped.

While adoption will not be ruled out entirely, family judges will decide on a case-by-case basis.

In the face of concern that civil unions would be too similar to marriage, references to a need for faithfulness were also removed.

Gay couples will be able to take each other's names and inherit each other's residual pension rights, but critics say the new rules fall short of legal protection offered to same-sex couples in other European countries, Canada and the United States.

Several previous attempts to legalize civil unions in Italy have foundered in the face of opposition orchestrated by the Catholic church.

The current bill risked running aground over the adoption clause, with critics insisting it would open the door to surrogacy, which is illegal under Italian law.

Polls suggest Italian public opinion has moved decisively in favor of civil unions in recent years but that a majority of voters remains opposed to extending equal adoption rights to gay couples.

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© AFP 2017

 
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Italy extended legal recognition to same-sex relationships on Wednesday with parliament backing gay civil unions after a long battle to overcome opposition led by the Catholic church, but stopped short of marriage and adoption.
italy, gay, rights, same-sex, civil, unions
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2016-18-12
Thursday, 12 May 2016 08:18 AM
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