Italian Senate Approves Civil Unions for Gay Couples, but Not Adoptions

Rome — After months of political infighting and decades of battles by gay people for civil rights, Italy’s Senate on Thursday approved the country’s first law granting legal recognition to civil unions, but stopped short of giving same-sex couples the right to stepchild adoption.

The paring of the adoption provision was crucial to passage in the Senate, where the bill faced enough resistance that Prime Minister Matteo Renzi tied its fate to a confidence vote on his government, which passed handily, 173 to 71.

The bill also grants some civil rights to unmarried couples, who have historically been largely ignored under current legislation.

The bill, which Mr. Renzi called “historic” on Twitter after sealing an agreement over the text on Wednesday, now goes to the lower house of Parliament, where it seems certain to pass in coming weeks.

As approved, the bill grants same-sex couples rights similar to those of married couples, including mutual financial and moral support, the sharing of a last name and common home address, as well as some inheritance and pension rights.

But the bill stopped short of granting same-sex couples the right to adopt a child, even if one of the partners is the biological parent. The so-called stepchild adoption provision was vehemently opposed by center-right parties and by the Catholic Church, whose values still permeate Italian society.

Nevertheless, Maria Elena Boschi, minister of constitutional reforms and a protagonist in the political mediation, said in a statement that the law will “finally affirm that the life project of a same-sex couple is not worth less than that between a man and a woman.”

Monica Cirinnà, the senator sponsoring the bill, emphasized that it “will make civil unions a reality in Italy.”

But she acknowledged the bill’s shortcomings in the stripping out of the provision on stepchild adoption, which would have been the “natural consequence” of legislation, as happens “everywhere in Europe.”

“Our effort doesn’t end here,” she told senators. “We made only a first — albeit very tough — step.”

Many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender associations did not consider the law a full victory, as the bill includes language that will force same-sex parents to turn to the judiciary for adoption, delegating the issue to Italy’s already burdened magistrates.

Advocates almost unanimously condemned the elimination of the stepchild adoption clause as a violation of equal rights for gay couples.

“It’s a useless and empty law; they can scrap it,” Marilena Grassadonia, president of Italy’s Rainbow Families, an L.G.B.T. parents’ association, said in a phone interview. “As parents, we challenge anyone to accept a law that hurts our dignity and our children.”

“These children already exist; the prime minister recently said that all children are equal in Italy,” she noted. “Today, that’s unfortunately not the case.”

Ms. Grassadonia also recalled offensive remarks against homosexuals made by several politicians, even as the bill was being voted on. Among those was the statement by a center-right government minister whose party mostly voted in favor of the law.

“It was a beautiful gift to Italy to have prevented same-sex couples from having a child, as nature prevents that,” Italy’s interior minister, Angelino Alfano, said in a televised comment on Thursday. “We prevented a revolution that is against nature and anthropology.”

After the anti-establishment Five Star Movement retreated from its support of the bill last week, Mr. Renzi’s government, which has a slim majority in the Senate, was forced to seek consensus in the center-right, traditionally Catholic wing of Parliament.

The necessity of that alliance, analysts agreed, triggered the change in the law that impedes same-sex couples from adopting a partner’s biological child, as hoped by the Italian bishops conference.

The Catholic Church in Italy warmly saluted the elimination of the stepchild adoption clause.

Still, amid their disappointment, some gay rights associations highlighted the historic moment that the bill marked for Italy.

“It’s a starting point,” said Aurelio Mancuso, president of the Italian civil rights association Equality Italia, in an interview with the newspaper La Repubblica. “The battle continues.”

by Gaia Pianigiani
Source – The New York Times