Renzi Challenged on Gay Couple's Legal Status in Catholic Italy

  • Italy one of last EU states not to recognize gay partnerships
  • Interior minister threatens referendum to repeal measure

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi faces a challenge from within his ruling coalition as he fights to win legal recognition for homosexual couples in Roman Catholic Italy, among the last European Union states without such a provision.

The Senate, where Renzi has a narrow majority, is due to hold the first in a series of votes on Wednesday with further ballots expected into next week. Opposition from the New Center Right (NCD) party, a coalition member, and from a Catholic wing in Renzi’s own Democratic party, is particularly focused on a clause allowing gay people to become stepparents to their partners’ children.

“The great majority of Italians -- and it seems also in parliament -- wants an institution which makes civil unions legitimate also for people of the same sex,” Renzi said in an online statement on Tuesday. “Rights (and duties) are such only if they are for everyone.”

Interior Minister Angelino Alfano of the NCD party said last month that under Italian law, “a family is made up of a man and a woman.” He added in a post on the party’s website: “If Italy was to have a law that allows stepchild adoption by gay couples, the next day we will launch a great gathering of signatures for a referendum to abolish it.”

Opposition parties including the anti-euro Northern League and Forza Italia of ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi may seek secret votes in a bid to encourage dissidents to join them. If approved by the Senate, the bill would then go to the lower house.

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