Monday, January 25, 2016

Italy’s Gay Rights Showdown with the Vatican

For all those in the LGBT community who nearly had the vapors over Pope Francis' supposedly kinder and more accepting approach to LGBT individuals, look no farther than Italy to see the Catholic Church's real attitude towards gays.  With the Italian parliament now considering same sex partnership legislation, the Church is fighting tooth and claw to oppose any legislation that would grant gays increased rights.  Events in Italy mirror the Church's anti-gay efforts in Slovenia and across the globe where  keeping LGBT individuals third class citizens - or less - is a Church priority even as the cover up of sex crimes against children and youths continues. Meanwhile, Italy now finds itself as the last western European nation where religion still trumps equality under the civil laws.  A piece in The Daily Beast looks at the contest in Italy.  Here are excerpts:

ROME — Same-sex couples in Italy might as well be invisible. They cannot adopt children. They cannot inherit pensions or share state-funded benefits. They are not recognized as legal couples for the purpose of tax breaks. They cannot even visit each other if one partner is in the intensive care unit, or on his or her death bed, in a public hospital, no matter how long they may have been together even if they were married legally in another country. But all that may soon change. 
Italy is the last major European nation with a complete blind spot when it comes to recognizing same-sex couples as legal partners. Last June, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Italy was in “breach of human rights” because it offered no option that would allow same-sex partners to share the same benefits as straight partners, specifically citing adoption, shared pension benefits, and tax breaks as key rights that are missing. 

On Jan. 28, Italy’s Senate will start debating the so-called Cirinna law, named after Monica Cirinna, the senator from Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s center-left Democratic Party who officially introduced the bill last October. 

Renzi has made the recognition of civil unions a priority in his premiership and vows to pass the bill into law. “We can hardly think we can go to Europe beating our drum about immigration or the deficit limit, and then be last in the line when it comes to human rights," Cirinna told Reuters last week. "But we live under the shadow of the Vatican dome and Catholicism here is different than in other countries. It is a presence."

[T]he bill is simply about allowing same-sex couples the right to be recognized the same way non-married straight couples are, as a “social formation” or life-long partnership that isn’t bound by a marriage certificate, much as France has done with its PACS (civil solidarity pacts) for more than 15 years.  

One reason it has taken so long to get such a bill to a vote is because of the need to determine what exactly to call the same-sex unions to avoid any connotation of marriage. Meanwhile, naysayers have threatened to tack on thousands of amendments. The right-wing Nuovo Centro Destra or New Center Right party run by Angelino Alfano, Silvio Berlusconi’s former wingman, has had considerable success delaying the bill’s progress. 
Alfano, who recently said the use of surrogate mothers should be treated as a sex crime, is not-so-subtly backed by several high ranking Catholic cardinals, who have managed to keep this law out of parliament for years.

Late last year at the Vatican’s Synod on the Family under Pope Francis, those in attendance agreed that while gays are welcome in the Church pews, they will never be allowed to walk down the aisle. 
“Regarding proposals to place unions of homosexual persons on the same level as marriage, there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family” the synod fathers wrote in their final document.
On Saturday, a coalition of gay-rights groups held demonstrations in more than 80 public squares across Italy under the banner “Svegliati Italia,” or “Wake up Italy.” Anyone attending was asked to bring alarm clocks and timers as props to make the wake-up point. 

“The law, if passed, will change the lives of many gay and lesbian people, and especially their children, whose lives it will undoubtedly improve,” says Arcigay’s Piazzoni. “We need to give people back their dignity to remind our government that their objective at hand is to ensure equality for all, a goal that so far remains elusive.” 

But not to be outdone, Italy’s Catholic bishops are holding their own demonstration on Jan. 30 under the banner “Family Day” . . .
The bill debate kicks off on Jan. 28, and, barring unforeseen delays, could come to a vote within a week. If it passes in any form, which it surely should, it will be seen as a major defeat to the conservatives of the Catholic church. And even if it passes as just a shell of its original incarnation, it will be seen as a worthy compromise by many in the LGTB community—a necessary first step toward equality for all. 

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