The Irish “Yes” has been viewed as a “lesson in civility” by many Italians as the Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, vowed to push through civil unions as a first step towards allowing gay marriages in the land of the Catholic Church.

“Civil unions cannot be delayed any longer,” Mr Renzi said as gay rights advocates said the result of the referendum in another staunchly Catholic country had left Italy’s position looking untenable.

Nichi Vendola, the leader of the left-wing SEL party and one of the few high-profile Italian gay rights campaigners, said the Irish had provided “a lesson in civility” and called on Italy to “wake up”. Maria Elena Boschi, the Constitutional Reforms Minister and a key Renzi ally in the coalition government, backed the calls for civil unions. “This is a battle for civility and there’s the will to get there,” she said.

Mr Renzi conceded that many members of his own centre-left Democratic Party wanted to go further and to legislate for gay marriage, according to sources quoted in La Repubblica.

But many leading equality campaigners in his own party, say that realistically, civil partnerships will have to be the first step. Even obtaining these will not prove easy, however. Proposals for civil partnerships by the Senator Monica Cirinnà have being swamped by amendments, mostly by centre-right parliamentarians. The small, pious Area Popolare group alone submitted 3,000 amendments this month. 

The role of the Church in Italy’s resistance to gay equality was underlined in an interview on Sunday given by Monsignor Nunzio Galantino, the general secretary of the Italian Bishops Conference. He implied that the traditional family described in the Italian Constitution was under threat, and that allowing gays to enter into civil partnerships would be he start of a slippery slope. “I have the impression we want to build Trojan Horses,” he said.

However many in the Italian press said the parliament was lagging behind popular opinion on the issue, and that a referendum in Italy might well produce a result similar to that seen in Ireland.

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