Italy's Renzi: gay unions bill may be watered down to win passage

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi urged his Democratic Party (PD) Sunday to reach out to its centrist allies to secure the passage of a controversial law on gay unions

The PD has sponsored a reform granting limited adoption rights to same-sex couples, and counted on the support of the opposition Five Star Movement (M5S) for the measure. But Renzi is now accusing them of trying to sabotage the reform to damage the government.

"On civil unions, we are at a crossroads," the prime minister told a party meeting in Rome.

A few days ago, the M5S blocked a PD proposal to fast-track Senate voting on the law, a move that would have circumvented thousands of obstructionist amendments filed by other, anti-reform opposition parties.

Renzi said this was evidence of bad faith, and told his party it could either "pretend nothing had happened" and hope for no more bad surprises from the M5S, or "try out a government [coalition] agreement" on the reform.

If ruling parties thrash out a compromise, the government would stand ready to force it through the Senate, where it has a slim majority, by calling for a vote of confidence, Renzi said, effectively offering his resignation in case the bill is defeated.

The problem is that the PD's centrist allies are ready to back gay unions legislation only if provisions on stepchild adoptions - which grant a gay person the right to adopt their partner's children - are excised from the current draft.

For gay rights activists, and many sponsors of the reform, this is a red line. They argue that the status quo, where children raised in gay households, often born through surrogacy, have only one legal parent, is unacceptable.

"If government [coalition] agreement means giving up on the stepchild [adoptions], I am against it," a leader of the PD's leftist faction, Roberto Speranza, said after Renzi.

PD senators are to decide how to proceed on Tuesday, hours before the upper chamber resumes voting on the reform. If the law clears the Senate hurdle, it will pass to the lower chamber, where its passage is expected to be less difficult.

Italy is the last Western European nation with no laws on same-sex partnerships. It has been urged to change the status quo by both its constitutional court and the European Court of Human Rights, but public opinion is split.

In January, pro-reform demonstrations and a no-camp rally were attended by hundreds of thousands of people. Italian Catholic bishops have criticized the reform, but, in a remarkable development, Pope Francis has refused to publicly endorse their stance.

"The pope does not meddle with Italian politics," Francis said Thursday when asked for an opinion. "Because the pope belongs to everybody, he cannot enter the concrete, domestic politics of a country. This is not the pope's role," he added.

Last update: Sun, 21/02/2016 - 16:00

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