Italy PM calls for coalition deal, confidence vote over civil unions

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 21, 2016 11:11 AM

By Valentina Za

MILAN (Reuters) - Italy's government must seek an accord within the ruling coalition over legislation offering same-sex couples legal recognition and be ready to stand a confidence vote on it, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said on Sunday.

Renzi, who had promised to enact the law last year, has faced strong opposition both within parliament and from the Roman Catholic Church, which wields great influence in Italy.

In the latest setback, the government last week postponed voting on the bill after it lost the support of the populist Five Star Movement on a key amendment.

The most contentious aspect of the legislation is a clause allowing same-sex couples to adopt the biological child of the other partner - a compromise deal may require ditching it.

Critics say the stepchild adoption would encourage surrogacy parenting, which is illegal in Italy and fiercely opposed by Renzi's main coalition ally the New Centre Right party headed by Interior Minister Angelino Alfano.

Italy is the only major Western country that has not yet recognized civil unions for same-sex or heterosexual couples, continuing to withhold from them legal protections such as inheritance rights.

Italy's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex movement said in a note it looked with great concern at the prospect of an accord because of the views some governing parties held on homosexual families.

"The stepchild adoption is ... the heart of the law, any solution that excludes it cannot be acceptable," it said.

Renzi told the assembly of his center-left Democratic Party (PD) party that relying further on the Five Star Movement remained one possibility but there was a risk that approval of the bill were delayed for another year.

"The issue of civil rights is the biggest challenge currently for us ... we have two alternatives," Renzi said. "My proposal ... is for governing parties to try to reach an accord and put forward an amendment on which I believe we must be ready to call a confidence vote."

In his speech, Renzi also reiterated a call for Egypt to help uncover the truth over the death of Giulio Regeni, a 28-year-old Italian student found tortured by a roadside in Cairo.

"Italy is friends with Egypt and we demand the truth from our friends," Renzi said. "The truth is not optional despite what business, diplomacy or realpolitik reasons may suggest. We owe it to Giulio's mother and father."

(Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)