Italy has moved a step closer to an historic vote on civil partnership laws, as controversy over the issue continues. A vote in the lower house has paved the way for the proposals to be presented by Romano Prodi’s government within the next 15 days. Prodi’s broad-based but fragile leftist coalition has been severely tested by the proposals. Some, like Family Minister Rosa Bindi, are mainly in favour, while others are vehemently opposed.
Opposition leader Silvio Berlusconi says the vote is a matter of conscience – but some of his allies have already spoken out: “We are completely opposed to any debate which questions the nature of the sacrament of marriage,” said a member of the National Alliance.
The Vatican is also applying heavy pressure. Pope Benedict XVI has repeatedly condemned the proposals as “anti-church and anti-family”.
Despite this, polls show 69 percent of the country’s Catholics are in favour of the new laws, which would grant cohabiting couples similar rights to married ones. The number of non-formalised same sex unions in Italy doubled between 1994 and 2003, from 227,000 thousand to 557,000.