The lower house of Italy's Parliament voted overwhelmingly to enact a bill to create a civil union status for same-sex couples on Wednesday, La Repubblica reported, a vote that will end Italy's status as the last country in Western Europe that provides no legal recognition for gay and lesbian relationships.
The Senate endorsed the legislation after a bitter debate in February in a vote that Prime Minister Matteo Renzi secured after agreeing to cut key provisions from the bill. The most significant was dropping a section that would have allowed for adopting a partner's child, which a coalition of LGBT rights groups condemned as a deep betrayal.
The path in the lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, was smoother thanks to Renzi's Democratic Party holds a much larger majority. The bill was adopted by a vote of 372 to 51 with 99 abstentions on Wednesday evening.
Italy has long lagged its peers in offering protections for same-sex couples; every large EU member state in Western Europe except Germany has established full marriage equality, and Germany has long provided for a partnership status with similar legal benefits. The Italian Supreme Court and Europe's top human rights court have both ruled Italy must adopt such legislation, but lawmakers could not summon the votes in parliament. LGBT rights advocates vowed after passage of the Senate version that they would return to the courts to challenge gaps in protections between the new legislation and marriage.
Though polls have shown nearly half of Italians support marriage equality and an overwhelming majority of Italians support some form of legal protections, the hard road to passage reflects the continued influence of the conservative Catholic hierarchy in Italian politics.