February 2, 2016

Italian senators debate same-sex union bill under Vatican’s watchful eye

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A general view shows the Italian Senate in Rome, January 28, 2016. Senate will begin debate on a bill that would legalise civil partnership for homosexuals as well as unmarried heterosexual couples. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Remo Casilli
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-ITALY-GAY, originally transmitted on Feb. 2, 2016.

A general view shows the Italian Senate in Rome, January 28, 2016. Senate will begin debate on a bill that would legalise civil partnership for homosexuals as well as unmarried heterosexual couples. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Remo Casilli *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-ITALY-GAY, originally transmitted on Feb. 2, 2016.

ROME (RNS) Italian senators have begun voting on a historic law to give legal rights to same-sex couples for the first time, a key test for the authority of the Vatican, which has for centuries had a powerful grip on Italian politics.

The political debate got underway late on Tuesday (Feb. 2), with senators voting to reject objections to the bill on constitutional grounds.

Under the proposed law, gay couples would be able to have their relationships recognized through civil partnerships. They would also be granted certain pension rights and, under a “stepchild adoption” clause, a gay person would be able to adopt his or her partner’s biological child.


READ: Gay rights campaigner reverses course in gay cake dispute


Democratic Party Senator Monica Cirinna holds a placard as she poses with supporters of gay civil unions outside the Italian Senate in Rome, on January 28, 2016. Senate will begin debate on a bill that would legalise civil partnership for homosexuals as well as unmarried heterosexual couples. The placard reads: " It's time to be civil".  Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Remo Casilli *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-ITALY-GAY, originally transmitted on Feb. 2, 2016.

Democratic Party Senator Monica Cirinna holds a placard as she poses with supporters of gay civil unions outside the Italian Senate in Rome, on January 28, 2016. Senate will begin debate on a bill that would legalise civil partnership for homosexuals as well as unmarried heterosexual couples. The placard reads: ” It’s time to be civil”. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Remo Casilli
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-ITALY-GAY, originally transmitted on Feb. 2, 2016.

After rounds of voting on each aspect of the bill, a final decision on whether to legalize same-sex unions is expected later this month. Intense debate is likely to continue.

Hundreds of thousands of Italians traveled to Rome on Saturday (Jan. 30) to take part in a “Family Day” protest, calling on the government to reject the bill. While organizers said the rally was not church-sponsored, there was a strong Catholic presence and numerous nuns and priests attended.

Protesters hoping for the full backing of Pope Francis were left disappointed, as the pontiff has so far refused to publicly comment on the law.

A recent remark by Francis has, however, been interpreted as opposition to the bill: “There cannot be confusion between the family wanted by God and every other type of union,” he said.

Some Catholics have also shown their support for gay rights, especially the pro-reform “Noi Siamo Chiesa” (“We Are Church”) group.

Overall, discussion of the bill has underscored the Vatican’s declining influence in Italian politics.

During the 1970s, the Catholic Church fought hard against — and ultimately lost — the legalization of divorce and abortion.

“Until the end of the 1960s and 1970s, it was very strong,” said Pietro Pustorino, an international human rights professor at Rome’s Luiss University, referring to church influence on Italian society. “(Then) there was a break, between Italian society and the church.”

Pustorino said the Holy See has adopted a softer approach with the proposed law.

“Traditionalists want to maintain their power in the Vatican. It’s not only conservatism for their values, but for power inside the church,” he said. “This pope may be more favorable (toward the law) than is said, but he can’t detach himself from the church. If he went completely against an important part of Vatican power, there would be a split.”

During his papacy, Francis has adopted a more welcoming approach toward gay and divorced Catholics and warned churchmen against pushing church teachings upon parishioners. But the pope has also disappointed some gay Catholics for not pushing for a change in church doctrine, which describes same-sex relationships as “intrinsically disordered.”

(Rosie Scammell is the Vatican correspondent for RNS)

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  • Margaret Sjoholm-Franks

    What can I say….Iran has its ayatollahs….Italy has the Pope

  • Chrysologus

    Except the article contradicts your assertion, pointing out the Vatican’s lack of significant cultural power decades ago. Moreover, it’s known that Bergoglio privately supported civil unions in Argentina.

  • MaryLou Scherer

    Bergoglio supported civil unions in Argentina, or so they say, and obliquely campaigned against gay marriage in Slovenia during the referendum they had recently

    You are confused…try again

  • My confusion around this issue is I see gay rights as “civil rights.” Therefore NO BUSINESS OF THE CHURCH. Gay persons most certainly can be religious…..as many are. Also they have every right to be non-religious……just as do straight people. That said all people are citizens and need to be respected as such. I fully support the separation of church and civil matters.

  • Ali

    haha And I’m an Iranian who lives in Italy
    I can say the problem is also people.

  • steveKarper

    hes not a bad guy in general but still living in the dark ages re gay people having equal civil rights

    here is why they yes really did force pope bennie to retire , just waited until he was almost infirm to do it

    http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/europe/01/26/pope.holocaust.denial/index.html?iref=24hours

  • steveKarper

    Len – the catholic church ran most of europe as a vicous theorcray that didnt begin to change until two things happened

    Martin Luther posted a translation of the bible from latin to german so the people would know what they were praying, which certainly IMO included hatred for jews re the death of another Jew – Jesus

    then came the holy inquisition of torure and stake burnings 10,000 to 100,000 viciously murdered

    Finally the church began to evolve but re gays its still in the dark ages since in general gays dont create more robots for the church

    here is part of why they lost all 4 of the 2012 referendums in the USA that ultimately led to gays having national civil marriage law rights

    http://www.bishopaccountability.org

    About 22 nations now allow gays to marry, info can be found on the web