A member of Silvio Berlusconi’s conservative People of Freedom Party (PDL) will tomorrow present a bill allowing same-sex couples to enter into civil partnerships.
The volte-face by Italy's centre-right, led by PDL senator Giancarlo Galan, follows a letter published in a national newspaper by a 17-year-old declaring his public call for tolerance and equality was his “last alternative to suicide”.
With the shadow of the Vatican looming large, Italy lags far behind on gay quality, with no legislation allowing for civil partnerships and no measures to deter homophobic violence or discrimination in the workplace. In this regard it also lags behind some second world countries.
The letter in La Repubblica on 25 May, prompted the centre-left speaker of the Italian parliament, Laura Boldrini, to call for equality legislation. She also asked to meet the youth, who signed his letter “David Tancredi”.
But some conservative parliamentarians also responded, saying that Italy’s failure to improve civil rights for lesbians and gays was no longer acceptable.
Among them was PDL senator Galan who said he was “moved by the words of David Tancredi” . He will introduce a 32-article bill tomorrow guaranteeing same-sex couples the right to enter into unions that give them the same legal, financial and hereditary rights as married couples.
The term “marriage” will not be applicable, and the bill does not propose adoption rights for gays, although Mr Galan said he supports the latter and predicted these would arrive before long.
He said he was confident that he would have support from PDL colleagues. Other senior members of his party, including ex-ministers Sandro Bondi and Mara Carfagna, have also backed civil partnerships for homosexuals.
Strong backing for the proposals would also be expected from the centre-right Democratic Party and Beppe Grillo’s M5S.
Mr Galan also sought to pre-empt criticism from the Vatican. “Although I can understand that the church hierarchy is not going to be pleased, I note that politicians have different responsibilities, and frankly I do not understand why Catholic friends want to deny freedom to others, taking away their right to happiness,” he said.