Catholic Church

Debate Over Civil Unions Splits Catholics In Italy

by Robert Shine

Amidst a heated debate over civil unions in Italy, the country’s prime minister rebuked a Catholic cardinal for saying the Italian Senate should employ a secret ballot on the legislation.

Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, who heads the Italian Episcopal Conference, had claimed a secret ballot would allow legislators a conscience vote.

In response, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi criticized Cardinal Bagnasco’s interference and suggested his government would call a confidence vote to advance the stalled bill.

Renzi told state radio RAI: “Parliament decides whether or not to allow secret votes…not the head of the bishops’ conference.”

He continued: “What is there to fear from two people who love each other? Why not give these rights to two people who love each other? The majority of the country is clearly in favor of it.”

Prime Minister Renzi is correct that 70% of Italians endorse legal protections for those in same-gender partnerships. 

However, the civil unions bill has been stalled due to disputes over adoption rights. Only 24% of Italians support allowing same-gender partners to adopt each other’s biological children, and even in Renzi’s own center-left Democratic Party there is resistance to legalize adoptions.

Earlier this week, Renzi dropped the adoption provision from the civil unions bill. LGBT advocates criticized this action, saying it guts the bill and leaves children unprotected. They were expected to demonstrate in Rome yesterday.

Renzi, who is Catholic, said he would call a confidence vote to jumpstart the bill in the Senate, where opposition legislators have drowned it in amendments.

The confidence vote is risky because, if lost, Renzi and his party would face elections after only two years in office.

But the prime minister is clear that LGBT rights are an essential part of his reform platform and the “debating game being played in the Senate” must end, reported The Telegraph.

Addressing his party, Renzi reiterated:

The issue of civil rights is the biggest challenge currently for us…we have two alternatives…..My proposal…is for governing parties to try to reach an accord and put forward an amendment on which I believe we must be ready to call a confidence vote.

Matteo Renzi is a high-profile lay Catholic advancing LGBT justice in Italy, but as Bondings 2.0 noted a few weeks ago, unlike Catholics in other European nations like Ireland, the laity in Italy are split on the matter of civil unions.

Nearly 300,000 Italians rallied against civil unions in Rome earlier during the church-supported Family Day protests.

Italy remains the only Western European nation to not grant legal protections to same-gender partners, a status criticized formally by both the Italian courts and the European Court of Human Rights. To read Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of LGBT rights in Italy, click here.

Originally published by New Ways Ministry; Photo via flickr user European Parliament