Italy kicks off long awaited debate on same-sex civil unions

Italy has finally begun debating a bill to allow gay couples to enter civil unions.

The debate began on Wednesday on the long-awaited bill, which has the support of Premier Matteo Renzi.

Italy Parliament

Although the debate began this week, campaigners are not holding their breath as the issue is a contentious one, and back-and-forth is expected to go on for several months.

The proposed law would offer some, but not all, of the benefits of marriage.

Included in the law would be partial pension rights, automatic inheritance and would enable same-sex partners to adopt each other’s children, if the child only has one legal parent.

Premier Renzi had already promised that a law would be passed by the end of 2015, a cut-off which may have been overambitious.

However this also is the first time a majority of opposition parties have supported such a bill, despite it being opposed by the New Centre Right party, Renzi’s coalition partners, being strongly opposed.

Earlier this year, the European Court of Human Rights upheld complaints of discrimination by three couples in Italy, who argued that Rome should allow civil unions.

A Senate vote is expected by the end of 2015, at which point the bill would move to the lower house.

Italy remains the only major country in Western Europe which does not have legal protections for cohabiting same-sex couples, or same-sex marriage.

A previous bill to allow civil unions was blocked in Italy’s Senate by thousands of wrecking amendments.