Senate starts civil unions bill debate

Conservatives ready to fight against stepchild adoption

(by Stefania Fumo).
    (ANSA) - Rome, February 2 - The Senate on Tuesday began debate of the government's civil unions bill.
    Rapporteur Monica Cirinnà from Premier Matteo Renzi's Democratic Party (PD) told lawmakers the bill, now in its fourth version, is "already a moderate synthesis" and therefore should overcome resistance. She said she had "felt on my own skin the effects of a poisoned debate".
    The "most false claim" - including in the media - was "that we are introducing gay marriage and gay adoptions," she said.
    The bill would introduce the right for gay partners in a civil union to adopt each other's biological children. Right now the children of same-sex couples risk ending up in the foster system if one of their parents die, because the surviving parent has no legal custody of them.
    The bill would also extend to partners in a civil union some of the rights heterosexual married couples enjoy, such as the right to inherit a deceased spouse's benefits and property and or to make decisions in their stead should one partner become incapacitated.
    Italy is the only western European country not to have either legalised gay marriage or recognised civil unions between same-sex couples.
    The European Court of Human Rights in July 2015 condemned Italy for failing to give gay couples legal "recognition and protection", and said the State must change its laws to remedy that. The bill is opposed by conservatives, including some junior members of Renzi's governing coalition, and by some Catholic members of the premier's centre-left Democratic Party (PD). The most controversial aspect is stepchild adoption, the part of the bill making possible the adoption by one partner in a civil union of the other partner's biological child. The PD said earlier in the day it has rejected a request from Interior Minister Angelino Alfano from the New Center Right (NCD) party - a junior member of the governing left-right coalition - to remove the stepchild adoption clause altogether.
    The Northern League said earlier in the day it had cut 4,500 amendments to the bill, leaving about 500 of them. Most of the remaining amendments are on adoption given the League's stated wish to safeguard "a child's right to have a mother and father". The withdrawal of the amendments follows a deal with the ruling PD which envisages the withdrawal of two so-called 'kangaroo' amendments that cancel out all similar amendments.