Italian Senate approves same-sex civil unions

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Italy’s Senate has voted in favor of a bill that introduces civil unions for same-sex couples, though a section that would have granted adoption rights was previously stripped from the legislation. The bill will now face parliament’s lower house.

Thursday’s vote followed weeks of heated debate, during which tens of thousands of people took to the streets across Italy, both in favor and in opposition against expanded legal recognition of same-sex couples.

In the end, to ensure approval of the bill, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi had to remove a controversial section known as the “stepchild” clause that would have granted parental rights to a non-biological parent in a same-sex union. This allowed politicians close to the Roman Catholic Church to vote in favor.

Thursday’s bill was approved by 173 to 71, but the legislation will now face parliament’s lower house, where Renzi has more support.

Nearly 15 years after the Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage, Italy is the only major Western power that recognizes neither gay marriage nor civil unions. A total of 20 countries have now legalized gay marriage, as well as parts of the United Kingdom and Mexico.

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