Italy’s Renzi wins confidence vote on same-sex unions bill
The ‘super amendment’ removes from the draft text rights for same-sex pairs to adopt stepchildren and a requirement that couples be faithful
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has won a confidence vote in the Senate, successfully breaking an impasse on historic legislation allowing civil unions for same-sex couples.
The 41-year-old Democratic Party leader used the risky stratagem to compel politicians to vote either in support of his government and its legislative agenda – or against him. The Senate voted 173 to 71 in favour.
Shortly after the vote, Mr Renzi posted “love wins” on his Facebook page.
“We tied the survival of the government to a battle for rights, putting it to a confidence vote. It has never happened before and it is not easy now. But it was right to do it.”
Italy is the last major country in western Europe not to offer gay civil unions, with close ties to the Vatican sinking all previous attempts.
Emma Cassidy, spokesperson for the European network of International Lesbian, Gay, Trans, Bisexual and Intersex Asssociation, said: “It is a historic moment that many in Italy have been waiting a long time for, and a mark of solidarity that he tied the fortunes of himself and his party to the issue of advancing equality.”
The legislation, which must still pass the lower Chamber of Deputies, was approved in the Senate after several bruising weeks of discordant debate that divided politicians and the public down ideological and religious lines.
Despite pressure from the Roman Catholic Church, Mr, Renzi, 41, has persisted in keeping civil union legislation in the forefront as one of the key modernisation reforms he promised when he took office two years ago.
The bill stalled last week after the Five Star Movement led by Beppe Grillo pulled support, forcing Mr Renzi to seek backers from the New Centre Right, who were against a controversial provision that allowed unmarried people to adopt their partner’s biological child.
The concession of the so-called “step-child adoption” clause, which was stripped from the legislation in the amendment that was part of the political deal, has triggered a wider debate about adoption and surrogacy rights for both same-sex and hetereosexual couples. New Centre Right leader Angelino Alfano boasted that good sense had won, adding that his party’s success in removing the adoption clause had helped impede what he called a “revolution against nature.”
While Thursday’s vote was hailed as a historic step forward by gay rights organisations, the outcome was also “tinged with great disappointment for rainbow families with children, who do exist in Italy,” said Ms Cassidy.
The new law does not allow gay marriage, but provides both same-sex and unmarried heterosexual partners to enter into civil unions, with rights such as the ability to benefit from their partner’s pension, tax breaks, or take a common last name. Much effort was made to distinguish “civil unions” from marriage, with even the “faithfulness” requirement in the relationship ultimately stripped from the bill’s language.
Democratic Senator Monica Cirinnà, the bill’s author, said passage of the watered-down legislation was only a partial victory, but still better than “Russian roulette with a secret vote,” as many pro-Vatican politicians had wanted. She vowed to press forward with parenting rights in the coming weeks.
“It is a first step,” said Cirinnà. This is a very important law, but I am thinking also about the children of many of my friends. Now we have to take a second step.”
This story first appeared in The Daily Telegraph here: