A mass rally was held in Rome on Saturday in defence of the traditional family, as Italy debates whether to grant legal recognition and limited adoption rights to same-sex couples.
Reports varied as to how many gathered in the capital’s Circus Maximus, Ancient Rome’s famed chariot racing stadium. Estimates varied from tens of thousands to the one million figure put forward by organisers.
Italy is the last major country in Western Europe not to have offered rights or recognition to same- sex couples.
Those taking part in the giant gathering want things to stay that way.
“I think the kids’ rights should come first, before the rights of adults who are free to do whatever they want,” one young woman said.
“It is a fact. Nature dictates that a baby comes from a man and a woman.”
Showing how polarised the nation is, Saturday’s rally came a week after thousands of people took to the streets of Italy to demand that the “civil union” bill, which relates to both homosexual and heterosexual couples, be approved.
The bill under discussion was presented to parliament last week and is due to be voted on next month.
As well as opposition on the streets, the government itself is deeply divided over the issue and opponents in the heavily Roman Catholic country hope they can sink it, as they have done in the past.
A week ago Pope Francis issued a strong reminder of the church’s opposition to gay marriage, saying that the traditional family was “the family God wants”.
Some protesters echoed his view. “I am a grandfather and this law goes against God and goes against the Bible,” said Franco Pantuso, 71, a retired waiter from the central city of L’Aquila who had came to Rome especially.
“Our children and grandchildren must be protected.”
Latest opinion polls say that 70 percent of Italians believe that same-sex couples should be granted legal protection, such as inheritance rights. However, only some 24 percent think that any adoption rights should be granted to gay couples.