ROME The Italian Senate approved on Thursday a watered-down bill allowing civil unions for same-sex and heterosexual couples, with the government using a confidence motion to ram the contested legislation through the upper house.
To overcome opposition from within his own centre-left coalition, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi had to strip out the most controversial part of the text, which would have granted unmarried couples some adoption rights.
The issue split parliament down religious lines, with politicians close to the Roman Catholic Church arguing that the so-called stepchild adoption clause would encourage gays to have babies with surrogate mothers, which is illegal in Italy.
Thursday's motion was approved by 173 to 71. If he had lost the vote, Renzi would have had to resign. The bill now passes to the lower house of parliament for approval.
Italy is the only major Western country that has not yet recognised civil unions, withholding from gay or heterosexual couples legal protections such as inheritance rights.
Renzi this week hailed the long-delayed bill as "historic", but gay rights organisations have denounced the decision to drop the adoption provision.
"This text once again does not take into consideration children who need definite laws and protection," said Flavio Romani, president of gay rights group Arcigay. "The law that has come out of all this is lacking its heart."
Renzi's junior coalition partner, the New Centre Right (NCD), welcomed the decision not to give gay couples even limited rights to adopt children.
"We have prevented a revolution that went against nature," said Angelino Alfano, the NCD chief and interior minister.
(Additional reporting by Isla Binnie and Massimiliano di Giorgio, Writing by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Steve Scherer)
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Updated Date: Feb 25, 2016 23:46 PM