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This Is What The Fight For Gay Couples' Rights Looks Like In Italy

Italy is the last country in Western Europe without protections for same-sex couples, but its Parliament takes up a bill next week that could change that.

Posted on January 29, 2016, at 1:02 p.m. ET

Next week, Italy's Parliament is scheduled to take up a law that would allow same-sex couples to enter civil unions.

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Italy is the only country in Western Europe that grants no legal status to same-sex couples; nearly all others have full marriage equality.

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Italy's judiciary and the European Court of Human Rights have both ruled that the country is required to recognize same-sex couples, but there's no mechanism to change the law without action from Parliament.

Vincent Kessler / Reuters

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has been trying to get legislation through parliament for almost two years, but it has been blocked in part by partners in his ruling coalition and members of his Democratic Party close to the Catholic hierarchy.

Remo Casilli / Reuters
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Italy's first out gay minister, Ivan Scalfarotto went on a hunger strike last summer hoping to break the log-jam.

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The battle has been framed as a referendum on the Catholic Church under Pope Francis and its role in Italian politics — lawmakers credit his conciliatory tone towards LGBT people with creating the space to finally legislate on the issue.

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But earlier this month, Pope Francis appeared to signal opposition to the bill, saying, "there can be no confusion between the family God wants and any other type of union.”

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A BuzzFeed/IPSOS poll conducted last spring found 75 percent of Italians support legal rights for same-sex couples, with 51 percent supporting full marriage equality.

Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters
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Earlier this month, hundreds of thousands reportedly held demonstrations in around 90 spots throughout Italy in support of the law.

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This weekend, opponents of the bill are organizing a "family day" in Rome, which is expected to have crowds so large that the Italian train company is offering discounted fares of the kind routinely offered for major events.

Alberto Pizzoli / AFP / Getty Images

Around 1,000 amendments to the bill are pending in the Senate, so it could take a while before the bill comes to a final vote.

Senators will use a secret ballot to vote on the most sensitive of these amendments, which concerns adoption rights.
Max Rossi / Reuters

Senators will use a secret ballot to vote on the most sensitive of these amendments, which concerns adoption rights.

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