The Strategist

Italian Society Overreacted to Same-Sex Unions

02/26/2016 - 16:01

Late Thursday, 25 February, Italian Senate approved the law that actually legalizes same-sex unions. The family-legal norm proposed by new government was quite ambiguously received by the Italian society and politics. In order to avoid risk of the government crisis, the law had to be put to the vote in conjunction with the vote of confidence. However, this step did not save the Prime Minister Matteo Renzi from new charges in the absence of the actual parliamentary majority.

Alessio Damato
Alessio Damato
"This day will go down in history!" - Matteo Renzi commented results of the vote in the Senate, which approved the law equalizing the rights of co-existence, including the people of the same sex, with marriage by 173 votes in favor with 71 votes against.

This law is similar to what has already been adopted by many European countries. Italy, however, could not manage to approve it for almost ten years. When the government of Romano Prodi submitted a similar bill in 2007, the country went to such powerful protests that the public officials had to quickly withdraw it. The situation repeated with subsequent attempts. However, after European Court of Human Rights accused Italy of violating civil rights in the June 2015, the country realized: the legalization of same-sex unions cannot be avoided anymore. Admittedly, public opinion polls also showed increased tolerance of Italians - more than 55% of the population had nothing against.

October last year, a so-called "Cirinna law" (named after the author of the new family law legislation, the senator of the Democratic Party Monica Cirinna) entered the Parliament for debate. Unexpectedly, a stormy debate overtook the country then, enkindled by demonstrations of many thousands of supporters and opponents of innovation. Clauses allowing adoption of biological children of same-sex partner of a second union caused particular irritation.

6 thousand amendments proposed to the text of the bill quite clear show intensity of the emotions. Of these, about 5 thousand belonged to the opposition party, "Northern League", which does not accept the innovation in principle. 300 amendments was made by "Forza Italia" party. The fact that 60 amendments came from the Democratic Party, which introduced the bill, once again raised the issue of the seriousness of the disagreements in the government’s ranks. Although the prime Matteo Renzi initially urged Senators to vote "at the call of the heart, not party affiliation", the discussion of the bill gradually slipped from ethical point to the political.

When it became obvious that "New Centre-Right" party, member of the ruling coalition, will not not support the bill until the point of adoption is removed, the Democratic Party began to seek support from ‘Five Star’ movement. It seemed that ‘Five Star’ senators stood in favor, yet their decision to support the ruling party was changed in the supreme moment. At that, the media resurfaced theses on "floating", or even non-existent parliamentary support for the government. Thing came to such a pitch that society started to talk about government crisis. In such circumstances, Matteo Renzi thought it would be best to remove the item unacceptable to centrists from the text.

"In the Senate, the Democratic Party is not in the majority, we have to look for allies," - Premier Renzi sincerely explained the tactical retreat in a meeting with foreign journalists. However, the compromise solution, where the word "fidelity" was removed from the list of family duties to cap it all, infuriated all the discontented even more. Senators of ‘Five Star’ movement even pulled the rip cord, and representatives of the "Northern League" and "Forza Italia" voiced accusations that the majority supported the bill is guided solely by saving their seats in parliament, rather than the interests of the people.

The fire was additionally fueled by news that the absolute majority of votes for the bill was gained only thanks to 18 voices of a group of Denis Verdini - a man whose name is synonymous with political omnivorous. Former close associate of Silvio Berlusconi, Verdini formed his own faction in the Senate supporting the government from time to time, but being formally in opposition. The opposition parties, which voted against the bill, used this as an excuse for claiming check if the government possesses necessary parliamentary majority.  

Now the bill will be passed in the Chamber of Deputies, where the government has no problems with this the very same majority.


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