As the 21st century continues to progress, nearly every Western country has legalized same-sex marriage or gay civil union in some regard. The United States itself just witnessed a landmark Supreme Court decision under President Obama’s administration in which gay marriage was finally legalized. To this day, Italy remains an exception to rule since it is still a country largely swayed by the Roman Catholic Church.
The Italian Senate is making efforts to catch up with the rest of the Western world by beginning a vote on legislation to legalize civil unions. It has been several years since a similar Senate effort failed, and lawmakers are now facing an issue that has deeply divided Italy.
The Prime Minister Matteo Renzi himself endorsed the national legislation, but ideologies of those involved with the bill clash significantly. While advocates of the civil union bill explain that it is needed to resolve the harsh prejudice against gay couples, opponents feel that the clause in the bill that allows a gay spouse to adopt his or her stepchild is simply a deceitful way to support surrogacy, which is currently illegal in Italy.
Some people in Italy, including the Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin, view surrogacy as “ultra-prostitution”. In fact, Ms. Lorenzin feels so strongly against surrogacy that she proposed making criminal sanctions to discourage the use of surrogacy among gay couples. Her feelings on surrogacy sway her opposition to the civil union legislation due to the bill’s clause allowing one gay spouse to adopt his or her spouse’s biological child.
At the end of February 2016, the Italian Senate finally succeeded in approving the same-sex civil union bill. The victory came at the cost of diluting the content; the controversial stepchild adoption clause had to be cut out. While Prime Minister Renzi wrote that the Senate’s legislation passage symbolized hope’s victory over fear and courage’s domination of discrimination, but gay rights groups are angry that the bill does not address same-sex adoption rights.
While gay couples now do have the right to take a partner’s name, inheritance rights and next of kin rights, and pension privileges, same-sex couples are still in limbo regarding their ability to adopt children. Many in Italy hope that the bill’s passage has opened the door to future legislation that will continue to provide gay couples with the adoption and surrogacy rights they deserve.