Italian same-sex couples have been waiting for almost 30 years for a law recognizing their rights, says Gabriele Piazzoni, the National Secretary of gay rights group Arcigay, speaking ahead of a decisive parliamentary vote on the issue.

dpa: The Chamber of Deputies is set to approve a gay unions bill in the coming hours. Is it a day for celebration for you?

Piazzoni: The law does not grant us full equality yet, because that will come only with same-sex marriages, but it definitely represents a historic step, because it is the first law to recognize many of the rights that we have been fighting for for 30 years. It is a historic step; there is no other way to call it.

dpa: What's not to like in this law?

Piazzoni: We would have obviously preferred if Italy had jumped through the steps followed by other countries and immediately legalized same-sex marriage. As a result, gay people in Italy are still denied parental rights. The fight for full equality will go on.

dpa: Was it easier to pass this law under Pope Francis, who did not explicitly back Italian Catholic groups who fought against the reform?

Piazzoni: I think that the Vatican was fundamentally resigned on this issue and preferred not to involve itself fully in what it knew was a losing battle. It was clear that Italy, as the last among Western nations, could not avoid recognizing the rights of homosexual couples.

dpa: When do you expect the first gay civil partnerships to be celebrated in Italy?

Piazzoni: There are still a number of bureaucratic loopholes that have to be cleared: once approved by parliament the law has to be signed by the president of the republic, then there are implementing decrees that have to be drafted by the Ministry of Interior [...]

If everything goes smoothly, we might be ready by the end of July, otherwise we might have to wait until October or November. Clearly, we know that [Interior Minister Angelino] Alfano is not enthusiastic about the reform [he fought to water down its contents], so we expect there will be more political negotiations over it.

dpa: Will you be among those celebrating a civil partnership?

Piazzoni: For the moment, I am lacking the raw material [a boyfriend]. For the future, we will see.

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