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Battle lines are drawn, as Italy plans to recognize Gay marriage! December 10, 2006 5:04 AM

DEC 10, 2006 Battle lines drawn as Italy plans law recognizing gay couples Battle lines were drawn over a plan to grant legal status to gay couples in socially conservative Italy, with the Vatican up in arms along with the right-wing opposition. ROME (AFP) - L'Osservatore Romano, a Vatican mouthpiece, slammed the plan, warning in an editorial: "Eradicating the family is the priority of Italian politics," while the opposition also pledged to defend the traditional family. Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi said Thursday that his government would draft legislation on civil unions in the Catholic-majority country by January 31. He said it would "represent a fundamental step forward" as his center-left Union coalition honors its electoral pledges. The measure would apply to all unmarried couples without reference to their sexual orientation, granting them inheritance rights, joint medical insurance and visiting rights in prisons and hospitals, among others. Friday's announcement of the planned legislation "confirms once again the hypocritical nature of these initiatives that aim to recognize an alternative form of family," L'Osservatore Romano said. If the government insists it is defending "individual rights" and that "nothing intends to endanger the traditional family, it will be lying." The Italian opposition, led by Forza Italia of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, also blasted the plan, while doubting whether Prodi's motley coalition -- ranging from communists, Greens and radicals to centrist and traditional Catholics -- will be able to unite behind the initiative. A gay couple in Rome AFP/File PAtrick Hertzog "We will defend the family as we always have," Forza Italia's Isabella Bertolini told the ANSA news agency, while adding: "The false majority won't agree on anything." Granting legal status to gay couples has been a subject of dispute not only between right and left in Italy but also within Prodi's Union coalition, which promised in its manifesto ahead of April elections to legally recognize common law partnerships, stressing that "their sexual orientation will not be an obstacle." The head of Forza Italia's group in the Senate, Renato Schifani, said Saturday: "Nothing has been decided, as some in the left want people to believe. "The debate on civil unions is completely open. Not only are we firmly opposed ... but the Catholics in the Union have already said they would never vote for it," he said. A member of the Margherita party, a traditional Catholic grouping within Prodi's coalition, however told Saturday's Rome daily Il Messagero that he favored the recognition of gay couples' civil rights but not gay marriage or "parity between civil unions and the family." A member of the small left-wing Rose in the Fist meanwhile accused "Catholic fundamentalists" of wanting to block the legislation. "We are in the presence of a veritable cultural and philosophical offensive with the authoritative guidance of the pope who wants to impose on Italy a sort of tutelage by the Church on civil and political life, unknown in other big European democracies," Roberto Villetti told ANSA. He was reacting after Pope Benedict XVI said Saturday that religious symbols should be allowed in public places. The Vatican condemned Spain's gay marriage law last year as "a defeat for humanity" and attacked Prodi for "tearing apart the family in a search for votes." Source: AFP  [ send green star]  [ accepted]
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