Catholic leaders win some, lose some in Italy’s new gay unions measure

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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) The Italian Senate’s decision to legalize same-sex unions is being viewed by many as a victory for conservative Catholics after those opposed to the bill succeeded in stripping a key component of the proposed law regarding family rights for gays.

Senators approved the bill — which will provide a new legal framework for straight or gay couples — on Thursday (Feb. 25) following nearly a month of intense debates over whether to legalize civil partnerships.

The bill passed with 173 votes in favor and 71 against and will now need to be approved by Italy’s Parliament before becoming law, a step widely viewed as a foregone conclusion. By a large margin Italians support civil unions for gays, though polls show they are against adoption rights.

The new provisions would formally recognize gay relationships for the first time in Italy — the only Western European country that has not done so — and grant couples certain pension and inheritance rights.

While the Vatican and the Italian hierarchy opposed the bill, the removal of a “stepchild adoption” clause was seen as a significant triumph for the Catholic Church. The measure was set to allow a person to adopt their partner’s biological child, which conservatives argued was a threat to the “traditional” family model.

Italy’s interior minister, Angelino Alfano, had strongly opposed the clause and succeeded in stripping it from the bill ahead of Thursday’s vote.

After the vote, Alfano said he was inspired by the words of St. John Paul II, who died in 2005.

“When it’s not possible to prevent or repeal an (intrinsically unjust) law … one could rightly offer their support to proposals to limit the damage of such a law,” he wrote on Facebook, citing the late pope.

But the Catholic Church and the Vatican had been viewed as taking a somewhat lower profile on this bill than in previous legislative battles.

Returning from Mexico earlier this month, for example, Pope Francis disappointed some of the bill’s opponents by saying that “the pope doesn’t get mixed up in Italian politics.”

On the other hand, the pontiff made his views clear in January, saying “there cannot be confusion between the family wanted by God and every other type of union.”

Moreover, the Vatican’s secretary of state, Pietro Parolin, reinforced the church’s position earlier this week when he supported the removal of the stepchild adoption measure. “The fundamental point is that civil unions are not equated in any way with marriage, that is that they are two completely distinct disciplines,” Parolin said, according to the Italian news agency ANSA.

The mixed result in the end left many unsatisfied.

The bill’s passage marked an “anthropological revolution” said Gianfranco Amato, one of the organizers of a huge, Catholic-led “Family Day” protest in Rome last month against the measure.

“For the first time … it’s Catholics that are doing these things,” he said, referring to Alfano and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who strongly supported the bill.

“This is incredible, they have produced a new family model,” Amato said. The outcome of the vote, he added, demonstrated that participants in the January protest had “no political representation” in Rome.

LGBT campaigners, on the other side, had said before the vote that the new legislation would be a failure if the stepchild adoption clause was not included.

The bill’s passage was a sharp disappointment for Arcigay, Italy’s leading LGBT organization.

“Today the Senate prepares to write an ugly page in the history of civil rights in our country … completely ignoring the existence and the needs of children of homosexual couples,” Arcigay said in a statement shortly before the vote.

(Rosie Scammell covers the Vatican for RNS)

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  • Richard Rush

    “. . . the removal of a “stepchild adoption” clause was seen as a significant triumph for the Catholic Church.” Trumpeting that point is clearly a desperate attempt to ‘save face.’ Make no mistake, the passage of this bill, even without stepchild adoption, is a major leap toward achieving full marriage for gay people in Italy. Thankfully, having civil unions will weaken the groundless and cruel Catholic doctrine that gay relationships are “intrinsically disordered.” On a much broader level, this is one more incremental step in weakening the abusive power of organized religion.

  • Ben in oakland

    Oh the hubris of humanity when they become addicted to their deviant hatred of people they don’t know, clearly know nothing about, spout all kinds of ignorance and hatred about, but hate and despise anyway.

    Your ignorance, bile, and despite are simply appalling.

    Here’s a hint for you. If you are so concerned about depriving children of a mother and father, perhaps you ought to talk to the heterosexuals who are producing their children of a mother and father.

    Here’s another. Deep down, we know that you are so twisted and perverted by your unreasoning hate that there will never be any meaningful communication with you.

  • Luke

    YOU ARE SO RIGHT = 100 % . One has to wonder at the thought process that goes on in anti gay minds ?? In the U.S.A. we have anti gays pinning all there hopes on over turning legal gay marriage nation wide with the appointment of an anti gay supreme court judge , how do these people think they will be able to un make hundreds of thousands of gay families ?

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  • G Key

    Here are some windows for your Door, Man:

    Equality. Respect. Compassion. Privacy. Boundaries.
    Egoist. Sociopath. Narcissist. Graduate of Bettern U.
    Mind your own business. Leave their business alone.

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  • It is simply not true that “the Vatican” and “the Italian hierarchy” opposed the bill. As your own report clearly states, Pope Francis refused to get drawn into the debate, saying that “the pope doesn’t get mixed up in Italian politics.” Several months ago, it was reported that the Vatican and the Italian bishops would not get involved formally, for fear of losing the battle and in the process, losing credibility among the Italian Catholic population. And so it turned out. Some individual bishops encouraged lay Catholics to participate in protests, others kept quiet. the “Catholic” opposition to the bill came from some Catholic lay groups and individual prelates, not from “the hierarchy” collectively – and certainly not from “the Vatican”.

    Where there was formal opposition from Catholic bishops (and Pope Francis), it was NOT expressed in terms of opposition to civil unions per se, but to any suggestion that these could be equated with marriage. That’s huge…

  • Billysees

    ” …this is one more incremental step in weakening the abusive power of organized religion. “

  • Billysees

    This is incredible, they have produced a new family model, an opponent said.

    ‘God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform’. Those are the first two lines of the Hymn by William Cowper (1731-1800).

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