• Italy's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Italy battle over gay civil unions heads for the streets
Supporters of same-sex civil union gather on Saturday in front of the Pantheon in central Rome. Photo: Alberto Pizzolii/AFP

Italy battle over gay civil unions heads for the streets

AFP · 23 Jan 2016, 17:59

Published: 23 Jan 2016 17:59 GMT+01:00

Italy is the only major Western European country not to have enacted legislation allowing gay couples to have their relationships legally recognised and protected. A bill, which the Senate will start examining on Thursday, is the first to get to parliament.

The draft legislation will enable same-sex couples to commit themselves to one another before a state official, to take each other's names and, in certain circumstances, adopt each other's children and inherit each other's residual pension rights.

"It is the bare minimum," said Marilena Grassadonia, chair of the Rainbow Families (Famiglie Arcobaleno) group.

Gabriele Piazzoni, the national secretary of Italy's biggest gay rights group, Arcigay, calls it a first step towards Italy catching up with its neighbours and ending a situation "that does our country no credit whatsoever".

Under the slogan "Wake Up Italy! It is time to be civil", supporters of the reform are due to hold demonstrations in 90 towns and cities across the country on Saturday. "We are not trying to make a big impression, it is more about going out and meeting people," Grassadonia said.

Opponents of the bill, in contrast, are planning a show of strength at a demonstration scheduled for January 30 in Rome's Circus Maximus. Hundreds of thousands are expected to attend the self-styled "Family Day," organised by mainly Catholic groups under the battle cry of "Defend our Children".

Massimo Gandolfini, the neurosurgeon who is coordinating the planned rally, says the proposed law will undermine marriage. "It is unacceptable to think of our children, our grandchildren, being taught that there are different models of families," he said.

In Gandolfini's view, Italy cannot afford to extend the pension inheritance rights currently enjoyed by the married to gay couples who sign civil unions "when we have 1.4 million families living under the poverty threshold."

- 'Grave and irresponsible' -

Above all it is the draft legislation's provision on adoption which provokes the ire of its opponents with the Catholic Church unwilling to accept the principle that, in the eyes of the law, a child can have two fathers or two mothers.

Angelo Bagnasco, the chair of the Italian conference of bishops, has denounced the whole debate as a "grave and irresponsible distraction from the real problems of the country".

In the world of politics, dividing lines cut across party loyalties. A minority faction within the ruling Democratic Party supports junior coalition partner the New Centre Right (NCD) in opposing a reform championed by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

Renzi, who has allowed his allies a free vote on the "issue of conscience", can however count on backing from most of the opposition Five Star movement, left-wing fringe parties and even sections of Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia.

Most observers anticipate Renzi will get the bill adopted in the end.

"There might not be a government majority in favour, but there is a cross-party one," said Piazzoni.

Thousands of amendments slowed the bill's journey through the parliamentary committee stage and more of the same is expected when it goes before the Senate and the lower house Chamber of Deputies.

Story continues below…

One group of senators has already tabled a revision to the text that would effectively criminalise gay couples who go overseas to obtain the services of a surrogate mother in order to have a child.

Whatever the outcome of the parliamentary battle, that is unlikely to mark the end of the war.

Opponents of the law have promised a legal challenge to any arrangements for same-sex couples that they consider to closely resemble marriage, defined by the constitution as being a contract between a man and a woman. Even if that fails, they will have the option of trying to initiate a referendum to get the law overturned.

"Those who are convinced they would win a referendum will see a bomb go off in their hands," Gandolfini predicts.

Opinion polls are variable, but tend to indicate a slight majority of voters back the principle of gay civil unions. The electorate appears, however, to be more evenly divided on extending adoption rights.

For more news from Italy, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Today's headlines
A day in the life of the Med's migrant lifesavers
The sun beats down on a flat sea as a gentle breeze blows up from the Libyan coast but the Mediterranean idyll is soon to be shattered for the crew of migrant rescue ship the MS Aquarius. Photo: Gabri

"You can never have enough experience to be ready for everything, and everyone has to start somewhere."

Italy finds 'body-filled' wreck of WWII submarine
Italian divers have located the wreck of a T-class Second World War submarine. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Experts say the bodies of 71 servicemen are still sealed inside the airtight submarine.

Video
200-metre sinkhole swallows cars in central Florence
Photo: Vigili del Fuoco

The accident was probably caused by erosion from the River Arno.

Rome in €500m plea to restore historic icons to former glory
A man dressed as Julius Caesare takes part in an event to mark the anniversary of the legendary foundation of the Eternal City in 753 BC, on April 19th, 2015. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

"We need help to ensure Rome continues to be a reference point in terms of beauty for the whole world."

Italy says another 3,000 migrants rescued off Libya
Migrants rest aboard the rescue ship "Aquarius", on May 24th after a rescue operation in front of the Libyan coast. Photo: Gabriel Bouys/AFP

The overwhelming majority of those arriving in Italy so far this year have been from sub-Saharan Africa.

Did a Nazi official save Ponte Vecchio from destruction?
Florence's Ponte Vecchio. Photo: Colby Blaisdell/Flickr

Ponte Vecchio is one of the world’s most famous bridges. Rebuilt after a flood in 1345, it was the only bridge across the Arno that the escaping Germans did not destroy during the Second World War. Many put the bridge’s survival down to a Nazi official, as Stephen Caruso reports.

And Lonely Planet's 3rd 'must visit' Europe destination is...
This Italian town is a 'must see' this year. Photo: Gatnau/Flickr

Drumroll, please.

Plush Sardinian resort serves Harrods with eviction notice
Harrods has been told it cannot open in Sardinia this year. Photo: Rick Payette/Tony Sheng/Hl_1001/Flickr

“Everybody, including Harrods, needs to obey the same rules."

Italian football hooligan gets 26 years for rival fan's murder
Daniele De Santis has been found guilty of killing a Napoli fan ahead of the Italian Cup final in 2014. Photos: Rome police/AFP

Daniele De Santis, a Roma 'ultra' and right-wing militant, was on Tuesday found guilty of killing 31-year-old Ciro Esposito.

GO! Italians asked to vote on coveted Monopoly locations
Photo: Jonathan Lin/Flickr

The classic board game is getting an Italian makeover - and you can have a say in how the finished board looks.

National
How the brutal murder of an anti-mafia hero altered Sicily
Travel
These are the best beaches within easy reach of Rome
National
Why Italians are falling out of love with the EU
Business & Money
Foreign, female and a self-made success in arduous Italy
Sponsored Article
Eat, learn, live: unforgettable holidays in France
National
How Italy's richest region is feeling the migrant strain
Culture
Rome mulls 'metro museum' after new line unearths ruin
National
Why Italy's facing a birth rate apocalypse
National
Why talk of barriers is opening up old wounds in South Tyrol
Culture
Huge Roman villa found under Amalfi church set to open
Travel
Two men kicked off plane in what captain calls 'racist act'
Meet the expats making a career out of Italian food
Society
'Staying single is why I'm the world's oldest person'
Travel
Where can you find the best beaches in Italy?
The ultimate guide to the insanity of driving in Italy
Travel
Eight of Rome's most tantalizing foreign food gems
Migrant arrivals in Italy top 30,000 for 2016: navy
Italy’s deadliest earthquakes over the last 100 years
Travel
US passports now need six months validity for Italy
Travel
Six incredible ways Italy profoundly changed my life
Society
Cheese, wine and family: the Italian way to live beyond 100
Culture
7 breathtaking alternatives to Italy's tourist hotspots
Politics
Long-term Brit in Italy barred from EU vote vows to fight on
2,526
jobs available