Thousands Of Italians Rally For Gay Rights And Civil Unions Ahead Of Parliament Debate

Nearly 100 towns and cities across Italy saw protesters roll out in their tens of thousands on Saturday in a bid to support gay civil unions and encourage the government to legally recognize gay and lesbian couples and their families. The protest comes ahead of a bill scheduled to be debated in Parliament on Thursday that addresses homosexual couples.

Italy remains to be the only major country in the Western Hemisphere that gives absolutely no legal recognition to same-sex couples and thus these families have no legal recognition or protection on sensitive issues such as partner pensions or parental rights. The New York Times open their coverage of the rally with an interview of a homosexual couple participating in the rally with their twin infants in order "to defend the rights of our children, not just our rights." Mirco Pierro is 39-years-old and married his partner in Los Angeles, but due to the laws of Italy, their union is not recognized and only one of the couple has parental rights.

"They are here. They exist, they are part of our families, and it is unfair that they do not have the same rights as other Italian children. This is the main reason that bring us here."
"Wake up Italy, it's time to be civilized," was the slogan reportedly chosen to unite the numerous rallies that were held to fight for the rights of homosexual families. It is estimated by the gay rights activist group, Arcigay, that there were approximately a million participants in what many demonstrators are said to be calling "a historic day for our country."
Despite the condemnation of many countries and even the European Court of Human Rights, Italy has continued to refrain from introducing any laws that govern civil unions, and it is believed that the strong influence of the Catholic Church is the reason that politicians of all parties have not held up any legislation that seeks to address the controversial topic. In fact, on Friday Pope Francis weighed in on the debate and issued a statement that firmly shows where the church stands and ha always stood in regards to homosexuality.
"There can be no confusion between the family God wants and any other type of union."
The bill slated to be addressed by the Italian Senate on Thursday would fulfil a pledge from Italy's government to pass legislation that recognize homosexual couples in civil unions as well as implementing certain measures that would allow both parents in such a union, not only the biological one, with custodial rights. Gay advocates have long maintained that the lack of parental recognition causes a significant amount of problems in many families and range from simple things such as permission for school activities to decisions on health care.

The division the country is experiencing is said to be expected in Italy since it is a predominantly Roman Catholic nation. On January 30, those who are against the union will also have their day to protest ad it is exected that the turn out will also rage in the tens of thousands, perhaps even hundreds of thousands. They opponents have chosen to call the day of their protest "Family Day."

Senator Monica Cirinna is the author of the bill and is happy that at least a subject that was previously so taboo is now the subject of a cultural debate. Reuters wrote that opposition against the bill to grant homosexual families the same rights as other Italians, already has more than 6,000 proposed amendments in bid to stop it from passing.

There were only a limited amount of politicians that turned out to support the rally for the bill but Agriculture Minister Maurizio Martina, a PD member marched in Milan in what he says was his support for "a battle for dignity."

"This law on civil unions needs approving now. We are the only European country not to have one, and there is no more time to be lost."
[Photo Courtesy of Andrew Medichini/AP Images]