A recent bill that would legalize same sex unions in Italy has garnered fierce dissent in one of the last countries in Western Europe to recognize same sex civil unions. Sponsored by Monica Ciranna, a Democratic Party lawmaker, the bill would allow same sex couples to marry under civil law and gain full adoption rights.
Italian lawmakers postponed voting last week because of a key provision that would allow one partner to adopt the other’s biological children. Critics fear that this clause will encourage surrogacy parenting, which is currently illegal in Italy.
The bill has been amended several times to reflect this criticism, adding language that distinguishes between same sex civil unions and marriage and stipulates that all adoptions should be overseen by courts.
Despite the changes, thousands of Italians marched through the streets of Rome to express their opposition to the bill. January 30th was declared “Family Day” and the number of people planning to take part in a rally at Rome’s Circus Maximus was so large that an Italian train company started offering a 30% discount to protestors traveling on their trains. Protest organizers estimate that the event at the Circus Maximus attracted around 2 million supporters.
Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the president of the Italian Episcopal Conference, spoke on the subject of activism in an address to the bishops, writing that Catholics have “a duty to participate in the common good [by]… writing divine law into the earthly city.” Though not specifically addressing Family Day, many Italians have interpreted Bagnasco’s comments as an endorsement of Catholic engagement with this issue.
Pope Francis has largely steered clear of the contentious debate, even though some of the bill’s supporters allege that the Church’s opinion is carrying undue political weight. But Francis has not made any public declarations on the issue. However, in his annual address to the Vatican court, he said, “There can be no confusion between the family willed by God and any other type of union,” implicitly reaffirming the Catholic Church’s teachings on marriage.