Italians Rally for Gay and Unwed Couples' Rights
By REUTERS, from the NYTimes on the Web, March 10, 2007
ROME -- Thousands of Italians rallied on Saturday for legal rights for unmarried gay and heterosexual couples while Roman Catholics launched a movement against what many of them consider an attack on the "traditional" family.
Demonstrators filled a Roman piazza in support of a bill to give unwed couples rights in areas like inheritance.
Some wore bishops' mitres with slogans against the Vatican, which sees the bill as an attack on the idea that families are based on marriage between men and women.
The rally included leftists from Prime Minister Romano Prodi's coalition, which is divided on the issue. Some coalition Catholics call homosexuals "deviant" and promise to shoot down the bill, which is being studied by a parliamentary committee.
Prodi, a practicing Catholic, promised rights for de facto couples in his 2006 election campaign.
"We won the election by promising to do something for over a million Italians who are not linked by religious marriage but want their rights recognized," Vladimir Luxuria, a transgender leftist deputy Vladimir Luxuria and Prodi supporter, said at the rally.
Citing Prodi's tiny majority in the Senate, which forced him to briefly resign last month, Luxuria said the bill's supporters had "to be sensitive and open up the debate to the centre-right opposition."
But Catholics in the opposition and in the government cite an article in the constitution recognizing the family rights of "natural" unions "based on marriage." They insist this refers exclusively to heterosexual unions.
Pierferdinando Casini of the opposition Christian Democrats' Union, opposed to the bill, said the sight of cabinet ministers contradicting each other, with some attending the demonstration, proved the "government has lost its way."
Catholic lay groups responded to the rally by launching the "Committee for the Family." Its president, Olimpia Tarzia, said the left's aim was "to attack the family as an institution" and equate homosexual unions with marriage.
But one leader of rights group Arcigay, centre-left deputy Franco Grillini, said Italy had nothing to fear since 20 other European countries already had "much more radical" laws.
"None of these countries has seen the apocalyptic forecasts about the fate of the traditional family come true," he said.
Supporters of the bill include
Nobel prize-winning playwright Dario Fo and
"We want to stop
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