Italy's civil unions bill gets put to a final confidence vote

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The Italian government has put a controversial same-sex unions bill to a confidence vote. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP
16:51 CEST+02:00
The Italian government has put a controversial same-sex unions bill to a confidence vote in a bid to get it passed without further delay.

The bill reached its final hurdle in the lower house of parliament on Tuesday after it was approved by the Senate, with 173 lawmakers voting in favour, 71 against and none abstaining, in late February.

In a move that was widely predicted, Constitutional Reforms Minister Maria Elena Boschi said the bill would be put to a confidence vote on Wednesday, sparking a backlash from opponents.

“Parliament is a doormat for the government to wipe its dirty feet on,” said Alfonso Bonafede, from the Five Star Movement, which in February derailed a plan to include a clause for stepchild adoption in the bill ahead of the Senate vote.

Italy is the last major Western country not to recognize civil unions for same-sex or heterosexual couples. The bill on the table was also heavily watered down in the face of fierce criticism from the Catholic-right over the stepchild adoption clause.

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

Over 300 amendments were filed ahead of the debate in the lower house.

Meanwhile, Italy stood out among its Western European counterparts for its relatively poor rights for LGBT people, fulfilling just 20 percent of the criteria for equal rights in a report published on Tuesday.

The report by advocacy group ILGA-Europe, which ranked 49 countries, put Italy at 35th place and into the ‘red zone’ – the same as last year - or closer to the end of the spectrum for “gross violations of human rights and discrimination”.

Even countries like Georgia, Bulgaria and Romania ranked above Italy.

Despite the civil unions bill finally making its way up through parliament, “Italy has not had a supportive government in this area for a very long time,” ILGA-Europe advocacy director, Katrin Hugendubel, told The Local.

Hugendubel noted that opposition to matters such as same-sex marriage and adoption have used religion and tradition as reasons to strike down calls for legislation.

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“But Italy cannot hide anymore behind this argument that it’s very Catholic and conservative, because there are countries like Malta and Ireland that have shown they are also very Catholic and traditional, but it was still possible to move forward,” she explained.

Ireland, for example, passed a voter referendum and then legislation legalizing same-sex marriage last year, while Malta has passed some of the most progressive protections for transgender and intersex people. 

“Italy is a country where the opposition is very strong, where the Vatican exercises influence, but it’s time for the politicians to step up,” Hugendubel said.

Malta came top in the report due to its ground-breaking legislation for protections for intersex people - those born with sex characteristics that do not fit into typical notions of female and male bodies, and was followed by Belgium, the UK, Denmark and Spain.

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