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Renzi wants civil unions bill by May

Italy’s premier Matteo Renzi is pushing for a bill on civil unions to be approved by May’s regional elections.

Renzi wants civil unions bill by May
Italy's premier Matteo Renzi is pushing to adopt a civil unions bill by May. Photo: Civil unions photo: Shutterstock

Renzi’s Democratic Party (PD) in February agreed to set up a working group to draft the bill after a meeting with gay rights groups in Rome.

"The PD agrees overall that we need a law on gay unions," party undersecretary Ivan Scalfarotto was quoted by Ansa as saying, after a meeting between Renzi and PD lawmakers on Monday.

“The question is not if, but how to draft the bill with regards to issues such as adoption and pensions.”

The law is expected to be based on the German model, which allows for civil partnerships but stops short of granting gay couples marriage rights.

The push by Renzi follows a call by the European Parliament last week for all EU countries to move towards recognizing civil unions and same-sex marriage as a political, social, human and civil right.

Some of Italy's mayors, including Rome's Ignazio Marino, have already started to take matters into their own hands by officially transcribing the marriages of gay couples who wed abroad, despite orders from Interior Minister Angelino Alfano to have the registrations cancelled.

Lazio’s regional administrative court also ruled last week that only civil courts, not prefects, can cancel the transcription of gay marriages abroad.

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Italian Protestant church says I do to gay ‘blessings’

The Waldensian Evangelical Church on Friday became the first Protestant church in Italy to formally offer to "bless" same-sex couples in civil partnerships, a common practice in Protestant churches across Europe.

Italian Protestant church says I do to gay 'blessings'
Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

While same-sex couples in the country are not allowed to legally marry in a church, gay and lesbian couples will now be able to mark and celebrate their civil partnerships in a church service – or “blessing” ceremony.

At least one partner must be a member of the Waldensian church however.

Gay blessings have been offered by the church since 2010 on a case-by-case basis, but with this position, the synod formally recognised “the plurality of different models of coexistence and family life in society”.

The move follows Italy's adoption in October 2016 of civil unions for gays and lesbians, which came despite the Catholic Church's opposition.

With that legislation, Italy became the last country in Western Europe to legally recognise same-sex relationships.

Founded in the 12th century, the Waldensian Church preached the Christian Gospel in the countryside and was persecuted by the Catholic Church.

The world's oldest Protestant community founded some 350 years before Luther's reformation, Waldensians were repressed by the civil and religious authorities until the middle of the 19th century when modern-day Italy came into being.

The community now numbers between 25,000 and 40,000 believers, mostly in the north of Italy.

Gay marriage blessings are common in Protestant churches in the north of Europe, France, Germany, Spain and Switzerland.