Italy's parliament approved same-sex civil unions and expanded rights to unmarried heterosexual couples on Wednesday after Prime Minister Matteo Renzi called a confidence vote to force the bill into law.
Italy is the last major Western country to legally recognize gay couples and an original draft law had to be heavily diluted due to divisions in Renzi's ruling majority. The bill had faced stiff opposition from Catholic groups who said it went too far, while gay activists said it was too timid While parliament was voting, gay rights groups gathered outside with a banner reading: "This is just the beginning."
"Today is a day of celebration in which Italy has taken a step forwards," Renzi said in a radio interview after the legislation was approved. The 41-year-old premier promised to prioritize legislation for gay rights when he took office in early 2014, but the bill has proven to be one of the most contested of a raft of initiatives he has pushed through parliament. The bill, originally presented in 2013, cleared its final real hurdle earlier on Wednesday with the confidence vote in the Chamber of Deputies, which passed it by 369 votes to 193. The chamber then rubber-stamped the bill with a final ballot.
"There is still a long way to go for full equality but this is an excellent starting point," said Gabriele Piazzoni, president of gay rights group Arcigay. The bill gives gay couples the right to share a surname, draw on their partner's pension when they die and inherit each other's assets in the same way as married people.
As a member of Arcigay (I got my membership when I was in Italy because many gay clubs require it), I am very happy that Italy has moved this far. The Catholic Church is a major force in Italy and has been a major opponent to gay rights. Italy still has more to do, but this is a step in the right direction.
Now, is there a handsome Italian man who'd like to marry me and bring me to Italy? I'm a great cook. I'm smart, a good conversationalist (once you get me going), know a little Italian, and would make a wonderful house-husband for the right man. I spent a month in Italy doing research a few years ago and have always wanted to go back. I've always said that I'd love to live in Italy.