The Slatest

At Last, Italy Defies Catholic Church and Legalizes Same-Sex Civil Unions

A demonstration in support of same-sex civil unions in Rome’s Piazza delle cinque Lune on Jan. 28.

Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images

Italy’s Parliament voted Wednesday in favor of a new law legalizing same-sex civil unions, extending new rights to gay and lesbian couples in the country. The country has lagged far behind its European counterparts in its protections and rights granted to gay couples; the new law is the first to recognize gay couples in the country’s history. The Vatican, predictably, opposed the measure, but it was backed by Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

The lower house of the Italian Parliament voted 372 to 51, with 99 abstentions, 30 years after lawmakers first proposed legalizing civil unions in the country. The law was hailed as a historic step forward for the country, but notably stops short on a number of provisions granted elsewhere in the world (via the New York Times):

Proponents of same-sex unions have complained that the law falls short of granting full equality to same-sex couples. In particular, it does not recognize same-sex marriages. It will not allow someone in a same-sex civil union to legally adopt his or her partner’s biological child. A so-called stepchild adoption provision was opposed by center-right parties and by the church and was ultimately dropped from the legislation…. A first draft of the law —it also grants certain new civil rights, like access to public housing, to all unmarried couples, including heterosexual ones — was watered down when the Senate adopted it in February, after it lost the support of a crucial party faction, and the government had to scramble for votes among more conservative lawmakers. The scrapping of the stepchild adoption clause was part of the resulting compromise.

“The legislation grants same-sex couples many of the same rights as married couples: the possibility of having the same last name, inheritance rights, hospital visitation rights and medical decision-making rights,” according to the Associated Press.