Govt says deal needed on civil unions

Premier recognises PD can't push through package alone

(ANSA) - Rome, February 22 - Premier Matteo Renzi was on Monday working towards a deal with junior government partner New Centre Right (NCD) on a contested bill introducing civil unions fopr same-sex couples after acknowledging that his Democratic Party (PD) doesn't have the votes to get it passed on its own.
    Under an agreement, the government could table a new amendment - which would likely be put to a confidence vote - dropping the controversial stepchild adoption provision allowing one partner in a civil union to adopt the other partner's biological children.
    The amendment could also contain other "minor adjustments" to the way civil unions are formulated and the rights and responsibilities of partners, sources said.
    Stepchild adoption has been the main sticking point for NCD, Catholics within the ruling PD and opponents on the centre-right, who fear it will pave the way for surrogate motherhood, even though this is banned in Italy under a separate law.
    However, opponents are also concerned that civil unions might be assimilated to marriage with the result that homosexual couples could eventually obtain full adoption rights, among other things. Renzi has always pledged his support for the stepchild adoption measure, but on Monday he told the foreign press corps in Rome his party simply didn't have the votes. "We can't have series A and series B children," Renzi said as he celebrated two years in office.
    However, "the PD has 112 votes in the Senate, therefore we must make a deal." The apparent change in stance comes after examination of the bill stalled last week when the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) pulled its backing for a so-called kangaroo amendment that would have knocked down hundreds of other similar amendments filed by opponents of the package. "We're not going anywhere if we continue like this," Renzi said on Monday. "So I hope we can wrap it up in the Senate within days, either with a government amendment or with a deal in parliament.
    "We have to end this lengthy and constant delay". Last week family lawyers, judges and constitutional experts said stepchild adoption was the minimum requirement for children of gay parents today.
    Under current Italian law, such children risk ending up in foster care if their biological parent dies or becomes incapacitated, because the surviving parent has no legal custody rights.
    Late Monday afternoon Democratic Party (PD) Senator Andrea Marcucci appeared to confirm the policy shift. "A full civil unions law with real rights for gay couples," he said in a Tweet.
    "We will continue the battle on adoptions...with a (new) bill".
    His message lends weight to rumors the center-left intends to treat adoptions in a separate bill dealing with both straight and gay adoption rights. On Monday Democratic Party (PD) President Matteo Orfini also said he was in favour of stepchild adoption for same-sex couples, but that it doesn't necessarily have to be regulated in the civil unions bill currently before the Senate.
    "I share what (Reform Undersecretary Ivan) Scalfarotto said: better a scrapping than a fantastical rewriting of the stepchild clause," Orfini said. The debate around surrogacy sparked by the provision is "complicated", he added.
    "The issue must be addressed in Italy and techniques can be studied to make it more difficult, but a European and global battle is also needed to make it clear that the principle is unacceptable," Orfini said. He also admitted the PD had been "wrong" to count on the MS5's support. "We took up the challenge. We came to the decisive week and with an excuse they changed their mind, maybe because of opinion polls. At that point we found ourselves in a tricky situation and we are at a crossroads," Orfini said.