Italian Senate Passes Same-Sex Civil Unions Bill

(photo: Screenshot)

The Italian Senate this evening passed a bill allowing same-sex civil unions, but the legislation does not include a planned measure to allow adoptions by same-sex couples.

The bill passed a vote of confidence motion with 173 in favor, 71 against and none abstaining.

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who has long promised to pass a civil unions bill, described Thursday's vote as "historic".

But the bill’s sponsor, Senator Monica Cirinnà of the leftist PD party, said the watered-down version of the bill was a hollow victory. She said it was “a very important measure” but legislators now must take “a second step" as "we're halfway up the ladder", ANSA reported.

The bill now goes to Italy’s Lower House.

Over the past couple of days, both the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Müller, and the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, have said that same-sex unions can never be considered equivalent to marriage.

Speaking at a Rome conference Feb. 25 to mark the 10th anniversary of Benedict XVI’s encyclical Deus Caritas Est, Cardinal Müller warned that politicians must not “impose a false ideology”. Cardinal Parolin told an event Feb. 25 linked to the Year of Mercy that it was “essential” that the Italian legislation not equate civil unions with marriage.

Asked about the legislation on the plane from Mexico last week, the Pope said he did not wish to “get mixed up in Italian politics”. He told reporters the “Pope is for everybody and he can’t insert himself in the specific internal politics of a country,” adding that he thinks “what the Church thinks and has said so often.”

According to a 2003 document issued by the CDF, a State cannot grant legal standing to such unions “without failing in its duty to promote and defend marriage as an institution essential to the common good.”

It adds that legal recognition of homosexual unions “would obscure certain basic moral values and cause a devaluation of the institution of marriage.” It also states that same-sex adoption would “actually mean doing violence” to the children concerned.

The document further warns that the “inevitable consequence” of allowing same-sex civil unions “would be the redefinition of marriage.” And it says Catholic lawmakers have a “moral obligation” to oppose such legislation “clearly and publicly” and that to vote in favor of such a law “so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral.”

In his comments to reporters last week, the Holy Father said he did not remember the CDF document well. He stressed that “every Catholic parliamentarian must vote according their well-formed conscience,” adding: “I say well-formed because it is not the conscience of 'what seems to me.'”

Earlier this month, hundreds of thousands of people attended a rally in Rome, called “Family Day”, to protest the bill.

In 2007, the Church was at the forefront of successfully opposing a similar civil unions bill introduced by the government of then-Prime Minister Romano Prodi.