Renzi survives civil union vote

Renzi survives civil union vote

Gay pride in Bari, southern Italy. Source: Wikimedia

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has won a confidence vote in the senate, successfully breaking the deadlock on historic legislation to allow civil unions for same-sex couples.

The Democratic Party leader compelled senators to support his government and its reforming agenda – or vote against him, turning the session into a vote of confidence in his administration. The senate voted in favour by 173 to 71. Shortly after the vote, Renzi, 41, posted “love wins” on his Facebook page. “We tied the survival of the government to a battle for rights, putting it to a confidence vote. It has never happened before and it is not easy now. But it was right to do it,” he said.

Italy is the last major country in western Europe not to offer gay civil unions, with the Vatican blocking all previous attempts.

Emma Cassidy, spokesperson for the European network of International Lesbian, Gay, Trans, Bisexual and Intersex Asssociation, said: “It is a historic moment that many in Italy have been waiting a long time for, and a mark of solidarity that he tied the fortunes of himself and his party to the issue of advancing equality.” But other gay and lesbian groups denounced the supposedly watered-down legislation as a betrayal because the prime minister sacrificed a clause to allow gay adoption in order to ensure the bill’s passage.

“We are outraged, angry, disappointed,” said Marilena Grassadonia, president of Rainbow Families, the Italian association of homosexual parents. “We can’t believe that in 2016 … in a country like Italy which is so proud to be part of this Europe, that it’s possible to make a law on civil unions without considering children who should be protected as Italian citizens and discriminated minors,” she was quoted saying.

After being deadlocked in parliament for years, parliamentarians were put under sudden pressure after the European Court of Human Rights condemned Italy last year for discriminating against its LGBT community. Ruling in favour of three homosexual couples, it said Rome had failed to provide basic rights to the gay community, including couples in stable relationships, including inheritance rights. It recommended civil union be given official recognition.

The law must still pass the lower Chamber of Deputies in what will probably see a repeat of the debate along ideological and religious lines. Renzi has resisted pressure from the Roman Catholic Church and pushed for civil union legislation as one of the key reforms he promised when he came to power two years ago.

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