Italy's civil unions bill explained

Senate set to vote on controversial bill

(ANSA) - Rome, February 15 - Italy's civil unions bill faces voting in Senate this week, and is divided into 19 articles with two parts, one dealing with civil unions and the other with cohabitation. Following are the main points: - ADOPTIONS. Gay couples can't adopt children, but, the bill provides for the so-called "stepchild adoption". If one of the partners already has a child or children, the other partner can adopt that partner's child or children and the children thus can grow up in the new family, but only if the other biological parent is absent or no longer living. Stepchild adoption is already permitted for heterosexual couples through Article 44 in the law on adoptions. Stepchild adoption is one of the key components creating controversy and partisan division for this bill. In Italy, the Rome Juvenile Court in 2014 rendered a de facto stepchild adoption decision when it said that no law expressly prohibits a same-sex partner from adopting his or her partner's child or children, given that the primary objective is "the higher good of the minor", thus allowing adoption by a woman whose female partner gave birth through assisted reproductive technology.
    - CIVIL UNIONS. A same-sex couple can register a civil union at city hall with two witnesses present. The union is certified by a document that contains information about the identities of the individuals, their marital property regime, and residency. The couple can choose one of their two surnames or decide to use both.
    - IMPEDING CAUSES. A civil union cannot take place if any of the following circumstances apply: if one of the individuals in the couple is still married, if one of the individuals is younger than 18 years old (unless otherwise authorised), if one of the individuals has been declared mentally infirm, if the individuals are related by blood, or if one of the individuals has been convicted of murder or attempted murder of the other partner's spouse.
    - LEGAL REGIME. Italy's civil code is the basis for governing the rights and reciprocal responsibilities of the couple, including children, residency, financial obligations, familial abuse, interdictions, dissolution of the union, and pension reversibility (the proportion of the pension transferred to the beneficiary's survivor). However, several amendments exclude this reference, and it is one of the parts of the bill that could be significantly modified.
    - RECIPROCAL ASSISTANCE. The same-sex couple is given the same rights as heterosexual married couples in terms of health assistance, imprisonment, joining or separation of assets, cosigning a rent contract, and pension reversibility. Proposed amendments might modify this part of the bill.
    - DE FACTO COHABITATION. The law recognises some of the basic rights already provided for by law, including cosigning a rent contract, assistance in hospital, temporary support of an ex-partner in financial difficulty, as well as the opportunity to decide on an asset regime through a notarised cohabitation contract.