Public opinion remains divided, and fierce debate continues, but Italy now looks almost certain to have a new law on civil partnerships, for gay and heterosexual couples.
The country’s Senate has approved a bill on the issue by 173 to 71 votes after the government used a confidence motion.
It still has to be approved by the lower house, but it is expected to pass easily.
This is the last major Western country that does not recognise the status of unmarried couples, whether heterosexual or homosexual.
In 2007 a draft bill was put forward by the centre-left government of Romano Prodi but it never saw the light of day.
This time though, the Cirinna bill, named after the senator who wrote it, has passed the political hurdles.
However, much to the anger of gay rights groups, it has been watered down.
In a compromise with Catholic parliamentarians, an article that would have given civil union partners the right to adopt each others’ children was taken out.
ILGA-Europe (@ILGAEurope) February 25, 2016
But the new law will give hundreds of thousands of unmarried couples other rights, despite strong criticism from the Catholic church and opposition parties.
The rights will include civil partners inheriting each others’ pensions and a residence permit for a foreign partner.
The law progressed even though the Pope recently voiced the church’s opposition to gay marriage, saying there’s “no possible confusion between the kind of family wanted by God and any other kind of union”.
But Italy’s lack of legal protection for same-sex couples was regularly condemned by top European courts.
Also, recent opinion polls suggested that 70 percent of Italians were in favour of a new law.
Italy’s Senate overwhelmingly approves civil unions for gay couples https://t.co/XdZYduZCEt— TIME.com (@TIME) February 25, 2016
Massive shame gay adoption is out of the bill but at least there's progress being made towards civil unions in Italy https://t.co/jsHMcj6PFn— LGBT Humanists (@LGBTHumanistsUK) February 25, 2016