Italy grants legal rights to unmarried same-sex, heterosexual couples

Anthony Cuesta | February 12, 2007

ROME — The Italian government announced Thursday the approval of legislation granting unmarried same-sex and heterosexual couples legal rights extended to married couples.

Equal Opportunity Minister Barbara Pollastrini told the AP that if Parliament passes the legislation, unmarried couples who live together can immediately begin to enjoy some legal protections, such as the same hospital visitation rights as spouses and relatives.

However, reports the AP, Pollastrini said couples would have to live together for at least nine years before they would be entitled to property rights.

"This doesn't intend to create a new legal status," said Family Policy Minister Rosy Bindi to the AP.

Instead, Bindi said the proposed legislation would grant rights "without creating minor-league marriages."

The decision came despite alarm among Christian Democrats in the center-left government and harsh criticism from the Catholic Church.

According to the BBC, the cabinet vote was boycotted by Justice Minister Clemente Mastella, a devout Catholic.

He said he opposed the bill because "it seeks solutions and guarantees which imitate marriage,� reports the BBC.

Pope Benedict XVI has been leading a campaign against legal recognition among unmarried couples and has denounced any efforts aimed at allowing gays to marry.

The issue of legal recognition for unmarried couples has divided Premier Romano Prodi's center-left government, whose smaller partners include Christian Democrats and Communists, reports the AP.

Passage of the law would be a grave attack "on the sensibilities of millions of Italians," Renato Schifani, a leader from Berlusconi's Forza Italia party, told news agency ANSA. – Issued by Gay Link Content

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