Italian conservative leaders outraged by same-sex partnership legislation

Troy Espera | December 11, 2006

Barbara Pollastrini, equal opportunities minister
ROME — Italian leaders opposing a request by the Senate's center-left majority to give unmarried couples – including gays – some of the same rights as married couples, voiced outrage on Friday and promised to fight what they said was harmful to families and Italy's Catholic tradition.

According to Reuters, the motion, passed late on Thursday, commits the government to present a bill over recognition to unwed couples by January 31. But it was vague and stopped short of suggesting legally binding marriage contracts to same-sex couples.

The Associated Press reports that Barbara Pollastrini, equal opportunities minister, agreed in a statement Friday that the government would present legislation by the January deadline.

"This is an answer to a maiden prayer for the right, because it's something they can raise a big stink about and take attention away from the issue of money and who is responsible for the debt," said James Walston to the AP. Walston is a political science professor at the American University in Rome.

The response from the opposition came quickly.

�There will be a clash in parliament in January over civic values but (the bill) will not pass,� said Osvaldo Napoli, with the opposition Forza Italia party in the lower house, to Reuters.

Reuters reports that many in the centre-left support legal recognition of unwed heterosexual and homosexual couples similar to that in France, which has granted all couples the right to form civil unions, and to joint social security and other benefits.

"We will fight this in parliament and in the country, getting the moderate, Catholic and non Catholic groups, involved," Pier Ferdinando Casini, a Christian Democrat and opposition leader, said in a statement carried by Italian news agencies.

Among other things, the proposed legislation would give unmarried couples including gays inheritance rights, joint medical insurance, visiting rights in prisons and hospitals, the right to carry on one another's leases, and the right to take decisions in case one partner becomes ill.

"There is one part of the majority that wants to bring Italy closer to Zapatero's Spain, making the regular family equal to homosexual cohabitants," Casini added, referring to the Socialist government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, which legalized gay marriage last year and has pushed through other liberal laws including fast-track divorce and less onerous terms for medically assisted fertilization.

The AP reports that about 90 percent of Italy's 58 million citizens are at least nominally Catholic. – Issued by Gay Link Content

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