Italian senate passes same-sex civil union Bill

Government comfortably wins confidence vote on complex legislation, by 173 to 71 votes

The cross-party government of prime minister Matteo Renzi on Thursday night enacted potentially historic legislation when the senate passed a same-sex civil union Bill.

The legislation now moves on to the lower house and then back to the senate before it becomes law.

The Bill, which had become a government confidence vote, passed comfortably, by 173 to 71 votes.

After 30 years of right-wing Catholics systematically blocking different civil-union proposals, Thursday’s vote was inevitably preceded by a difficult gestation, which saw the original Bill replaced by a much-reduced amendment.


In essence, the new legislation establishes same-sex civil unions but it has dropped the most controversial clause in the original Bill, namely the so- called stepchild adoption.

This would have allowed the non-biological parent in a same- sex couple to adopt children had within their relationship, perhaps through the practice of surrogate motherhood, which is illegal in Italy.

The legislation would appear to be a triumph for “realpolitik” on the part of the Renzi government.

Initially, the government had looked to the M5S protest movement to get the Bill through the senate.

When the M5S withdrew its support, arguing that not enough time had been allocated to discussion of the measure and affirming that it would not vote for a watered-down version, the government went elsewhere to find support.

Adoption blocked

In the end, Mr Renzi turned to his cross-party government partners, the New Centre Right (NCD) for the vital votes.

Led by Angelino Alfano, the one-time "dauphin" of media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi, the NCD insisted on the removal of the "stepchild adoption" clause.

So the adoption of children by gay couples remains a judicial issue, decided case by case by the state magistrate rather than a legal right.

Lest anyone missed the point, Mr Alfano controversially spelled it out even before the vote, saying: “It is a big present to Italy to have prevented that two people of the same sex might have the possibility of having a child, something that is prevented by nature. We blocked a revolution that is against nature and against anthropology.”

Mr Alfano also guaranteed NCD support only if the final Bill removed anything that made the new civil union being regarded as the same as marriage between a man and a woman.

To this end, his party insisted that vows of fidelity did not apply to the new unions, while they could be relatively quickly and easily dissolved.

Same surname

The new unions do, however, allow the same-sex (or unmarried heterosexual) couples to use the same surname and to have a legal entitlement to their partner’s pension after his or her death. It calls on the couples to be morally and materially responsible for each other in their cohabitation.

The NCD's position very much reflected not only a broad sweep of Italian Catholic lay opinion, but also the views of both Pope Francis and Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, president of the Italian bishops' conference.

A couple of weeks ago, Pope Francis said that there must be no confusion “between God’s design for the family and any other type of union”.

Cardinal Bagnasco, for his part, had underlined that the adoption of children in such cases cannot become a “legal right”.