ROME (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on Tuesday called on his Democratic Party (PD) to water down a hotly contested bill on gay civil unions by stripping out all provisions on adoption rights.
Renzi said his decision was the only way to push the bill quickly through parliament, according to PD senators who adopted their leader's proposal at a meeting.
Gay rights organizations were angered by the move, which Renzi said was forced by divisions in his left-right coalition and hundreds of amendments tabled by the opposition.
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.
Renzi, who took office in 2014, promised to enact the law last year but has faced implacable opposition both within parliament and from the Roman Catholic Church, which continues to wield great influence in Italy.
A clause giving unmarried couples limited opportunities to adopt their partner's children was the most fiercely contested part of the bill, opposed by Renzi's main coalition partner and many members of his own party.
Gay rights group Famiglie Arcobaleno (Rainbow Families) said the decision to remove the adoption rights from the bill was "unacceptable" and amounted to the "emptying out" of a bill that already a modest compromise.
Critics say the so-called "stepchild adoption" provision would encourage surrogacy parenting, which is illegal in Italy.
Renzi said he was ready to put the new version of the bill to a vote of confidence to have it approved in the upper house Senate by Friday, PD senators said.
The bill would then pass to the Chamber of Deputies, where the government has a more comfortable majority.
The rights granted by the bill fall far short of the marriage status allowed for same-sex couples in the United States, Britain and many other countries.
The legislation will give gay and unmarried heterosexual couples rights such as to take each other's names and to inherit each other's residual pension rights.
(Reporting by Giuseppe Fonte, writing by Gavin Jones)