The Italian government has approved a draft law to grant rights to same-sex couples, unmarried heterosexual couples and others who choose to live together. Observers say the issue threatened to split Romano Prodi’s delicate coalition between devout Roman Catholic centrists and pro-gay rights activists. The two ministers who drew up the text insist that the institution of the family is not under threat by the new law. Critics argue it’s just the start of a process towards gay marriages.
Italy’s devoutly Catholic Justice Minister boycotted the special cabinet meeting that approved the draft bill. If approved in parliament, it will grant rights in areas such as inheritance and health care. The Vatican last year called on politicians to fight against so-called civil unions, which have also been created in countries such as France, Spain and Britain.