A crowd estimated in the hundreds of thousands gathered in Rome’s San Giovanni Square on June 20 to engage in a Family Day protest against a bill backed by Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi that would create civil unions for same-sex couples. The square, adjacent to the Basilica of St. John Lateran, can hold an estimated 300,000 people, but the crowd of protesters overflowed beyond its boundaries, an AFP photographer said.
The bill that Renzi has attempted to push though Parliament would, in addition to establishing civil unions for homosexuals, provide for the teaching of “gender theories” in Italian schools. It passed the Chamber of Deputies (the lower house of Parliament) on June 10 and must now be approved by the Senate. Renzi seeks a Senate vote on the legislation during the next few weeks, with the aim of it being enacted before the end of July. The prime minister is a member of Italy’s Democratic Party, which is often described as being “center-left,” but has inherited a legacy of socialism from its predecessors.
Italian Democrats were energized in their push for civil unions after voters in Ireland — which like Italy, has a large majority of Catholics — approved a referendum on May 23 legalizing same-sex “marriage by a 62.1-percent affirmative vote. Following that vote, Renzi said: “Civil unions [in Italy] cannot be delayed any longer.”
And Italy’s Democratic Party leader Roberto Speranza called the Irish vote a “joy,” adding that “now it is Italy’s turn.” Another party leader, Laura Boldrini, the president the Chamber of Deputies, tweeted an approving message on the day of the Irish referendum that translates as: “being European means recognizing rights.”
While the Democrats may be the strongest political party in Italy, with a large plurality in both houses of parliament, they still face formidable opposition to passage of their civil unions bill — particularly from the Catholic Church, which seems to have a stronger influence on Italian society that it does in Ireland, where most Catholic voters ignored a statement published by the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference in opposition to its passage. (Read more from “Rome: Hundreds of Thousands Protest Against Same-Sex Unions” HERE)