Civil unions vote postponed to Tuesday

Senate rejects Quagliariello motion

(by Stefania Fumo).
    (ANSA) - Rome, February 10 - A conference of Senate whips on Wednesday postponed voting on the government's hotly contested civil unions bill to next Tuesday.
    Earlier, the Senate rejected a motion to not vote on the the bill article by article. If that motion had passed, it would effectively halt debate of the bill that would extend to gay couples many of the rights and protections heterosexual spouses enjoy. The motion was rejected by 195 lawmakers, with 101 voting in favor and one abstaining. It was filed by former center-right reforms minister Gaetano Quagliariello, founder of a New Center Right (NCD) splinter party called Identity and Action (IDEA).
    Also on Wednesday, the ruling centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and the opposition rightwing Northern League (LN) met to discuss a deal to cut amendments to the bill, but both sides came up empty.
    The League said last week it would cut 4,500 of its amendments, leaving about 500 of them, in a deal with the PD which envisaged the withdrawal of PD's two so-called 'kangaroo' amendments that cancel out all similar amendments. The PD called Wednesday's meeting "not constructive" while LN Senator Roberto Calderoli said it was a "work in progress".
    The PD earlier gave its lawmakers the freedom to vote their conscience on three amendments to the bill. One would scrap a provision allowing one partner in a civil union to adopt the other's biological child, replacing this with so-called reinforced fostering. The so-called stepchild adoption provision is the most controversial part of the bill. Opponents, including some Catholic members of the PD, fear it will encourage gay couples to seek to have children with surrogate mothers abroad - a practice that is illegal in Italy. Proponents say that in Italy, children of gay parents risk ending up in the foster system if their biological parent dies, because the other parent has no legal custody of them. 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 has urged Italy to remedy this disparity between gay and straight citizens.