Italy's new civil unions bill explained

Approved in Senate but without provision for adoption

(ANSA) - Rome, February 26 - The civil unions bill approved Thursday in the Italian Senate, and now before the House, sets forth opportunities and responsibilities for both same-sex and heterosexual couples who wish to contract a civil union. Following is an overview of what the new law contains: CONTRACTING A CIVIL UNION: As with civil marriage, a civil union must be contracted before a civil registrar in the presence of two witnesses, and is registered in the state's civil records archive.
    SURNAME: The couple can use one of the partners' surnames as a common surname, and the other partner can choose to put their own surname before or after the common surname.
    RECIPROCAL OBLIGATIONS: The union calls for "reciprocal obligation to provide moral and material assistance and cohabitation" but not the obligation of faithfulness, as in marriage, and requires "contribution to common needs" based on individual capacity and circumstances.
    FAMILY LIFE: The couple must choose a family address and a common residence.
    PROPERTY REGIME: The default property regime is community property, unless otherwise decided upon by the couple.
    RETIREMENT, INHERITANCE AND SEVERANCE PAY: Survivor's benefits and severance pay go to the partner, not the deceased partner's child or children. For inheritance, the same laws apply here as for marriage: 50% goes to the surviving partner, and the rest to any surviving children.
    DISSOLUTION: Here the 1970 divorce laws apply "as far as they are compatible", but there is no mandatory separation period as with dissolution of marriage.
    ADOPTIONS: A proposal for so-called stepchild adoption was stricken from the final bill voted into law, but a maxi-amendment included text that adoptions are governed under "current laws", effectively giving individual Courts the ability to decide whether or not to allow adoptions in individual cases.
    DE FACTO COHABITATION: Establishes as a de facto relationship one that contains "two adults united in an ongoing emotional relationship with reciprocal moral and material assistance, without being related by blood, affinity or adoption, by marriage or another civil union".
    ASSISTANCE IN HOSPITAL AND PRISON: The partners have the same rights as spouses in terms of assistance for a hospitalised or incarcerated partner.
    ORGAN DONATION: The partners can delegate health decisions to the other in cases of incapacitation, and decisions related to organ donations and funeral arrangements in the case of death.
    HOME: In the case of death, the surviving partner has the right to take over the rent contract for the joint residence. If the deceased partner was the homeowner, the surviving partner has the right to continue to live there for two to five years, depending on the length of the cohabitation. SUPPORT PAYMENTS: In the case of dissolution of the cohabitation, "a judge establishes the right of the partner to receive from the other partner support payments if the partner is in need and unable to provide for oneself" and the amount is dependent upon the length of the cohabitation.


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