Majority reaches civil unions deal

Renzi hails 'historic event for Italy'

(ANSA) - Rome, February 24 - The left-right government coalition patched up its differences over a Democratic Party (PD) civil unions bill Wednesday, coming up with a so-called maxi-amendment that will have the backing of both the center-left PD and its junior partner, the small New Center Right (NCD) party.
    "The agreement on civil unions is a historic event for Italy," PD Premier Matteo Renzi tweeted.
    The maxi-amendment strikes down two provisions the NCD objected to, namely a measure allowing civil union partners - including same-sex ones - to adopt each other's children, and another measure calling for the obligation to be faithful.
    The latter came too close to equating civil unions with traditional marriage, which Catholic conservatives in the NCD and in the opposition object to.
    The first comma of the maxi-amendment reads: "the current law institutes civil unions between people of the same gender as a specific social formation, as per Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution". Article 2 of Italy's Constitution recognizes "the inviolable rights of man, both as an individual and within social formations" and Article 3 concerns the equality of all before the law, without gender or other distinctions.
    Article 3 also says it is the republic's task to "remove the economic and social obstacles that de facto limit citizens' freedom and equality".
    The maxi-amendment leaves in place current adoptions law, which dates back to 1983, but PD Senate Whip Luigi Zanda said a separate bill on stepchild adoptions by partners in civil unions - including gay ones - will be on "a fast track" and must be approved by the end of the current legislative term in 2018.
    Right now in Italy, children of gay parents risk ending up in the foster care system if their biological parent dies, because the surviving parent has no custody rights over them.
    By leaving this matter unresolved, government de facto leaves such decisions up to family courts.
    Italy's Constitutional Court on Wednesday ruled as "inadmissible" the case of a lesbian couple who married in the United States - where gay marriage is now legal - and who requested that their adoption of each other's stepchildren be recognised in Italy after they moved to Bologna.
    A Bologna lower court had turned the case over to the Constitutional Court, a move newly elected Chief Justice Paolo Grosso said was down to "a judge that didn't know how to do his job". The majority maxi-amendment - which now has the necessary backing, barring any last-minute coups de théâtre - will be put to a confidence vote, Reform Minister Maria Elena Boschi told the Senate. That vote will likely take place Thursday or Friday, she said earlier.