Metro Weekly

Italy will finally recognize same-sex unions — with some concessions

Civil unions bill has been heavily watered-down, but finally gives same-sex couples recognition

Two men kiss at Roma Pride 2011, Credit: Marco40134 / Flickr

Lovers kiss at Roma Pride 2011, Credit: Marco40134 / Flickr

Italy’s politicians have today voted in favor of legalizing same-sex civil unions, ending the country’s stance as the last of the major European powers to not formally recognize same-sex relationships.

In a parliamentary vote, MPs overwhelmingly supported Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. Despite opposition from conservative politicians and the Catholic Church — which still wields an inordinate amount of power in Italian politics — the bill passed through the parliament’s lower house 369-193. That was enough to clear any hurdles to the bill being legalized, BBC News reports. A final approval is still necessary, but is viewed as little more than a formality due to the clear majority achieved.

Renzi took to Facebook to declare it “a day of celebration for so many. We are writing another important page of the Italy we want … It was no longer acceptable to have any more delays after years of failed attempts.”

However, he has been criticized for watering down the bill in order to get it passed. It’s not as extensive as laws passed in other European nations, and a clause that would have legalized same-sex adoption — a hugely controversial issue, again due to the Catholic Church’s influence — was abandoned. As further appeasement, same-sex couples won’t be required to affirm their loyalty to one another during ceremonies. It draws a clear distinction between civil unions and marriage — another necessity to get the bill passed.

However, it’s a major step for Italy’s LGBT community, with same-sex couples now able to take one another’s names and receive their deceased partner’s pensions, among other benefits. But LGBT organisations maintain that it’s only a first step on the road to greater equality.

“The glass is half full. The text contains the recognition and protection many gays and lesbians have been waiting for all their lives,” said Gabriele Piazzoni, national secretary of Arcigay, an equality organization. “[But] everything this law has failed to guarantee leaves a bitter taste.”

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Rhuaridh Marr is Metro Weekly's managing editor. He can be reached at rmarr@metroweekly.com.