Just days before the Italian Senate is set to begin debate over legislation that would grant legal recognition to same-sex couples, LGBT advocates took to the streets across the country to call on lawmakers to approve the bill.
Italy is the only major Western European country that doesn’t already have some sort of legal protections in place for same-sex couples, and last June, the European Court of Human Rights determined Italy to be in “breach of human rights” because of that. The court specifically cited adoption, shared pension benefits, and tax breaks as key rights that are missing, as The Daily Beast notes.
Thursday, Jan. 28, the Senate will begin examining The Cirinna Law — called that because it was introduced by Sen. Monica Cirinna — which is the first bill offering protections for same-sex couples.
The bill would give same-sex couples to option 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.
The Cirinna bill carefully avoids talk of “marriage,” which the Italian constitutional court has ruled may exist only between “natural” heterosexual couples. Instead it allows same-sex couples the right to be recognized the same way non-married straight couples are, as a “social formation” or life-long partnership that isn’t bound by a marriage certificate, the way France has done with its civil solidarity pacts for more than 15 years
On Saturday, Jan. 23, advocates marched in support of the legislation. Protests were planned for 90 towns and cities across the country under the slogan, “Wake up Italy! It’s time to be civil,” according to The Local.com.
According to Italian media, there were at least 7,000 demonstrators in Turin, 5,000 in Milan, thousands in Rome and Bologna, a thousand in Bari in the south, and hundreds in Naples and Venice among others.
Considering that Italy — and Rome, especially — is the heart of the Roman Catholic Church, opposition is, of course, strong. Opponents of the Cirinna bill are planning a demonstration on Jan. 30 at the Circus Maximus. Hundreds of thousands are expected to attend the “Family Day” gathering under the rallying cry of “Defend of children.”
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.” And in what many saw as papal intervention in the debate, Pope Francis on Friday, Jan. 22, ruled out any form of union except Catholic marriage.