The Italian Government has opted to suspend this week’s debate in the Senate on on a bill that would create civil unions for gay couples after just two hours over fears that Catholic members of the ruling Democratic Party would not toe the government’s line.
The Italian Government was ordered to provide some form of legal status to same-sex relationships by the European Court of Human Rights in July last year and so Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has been working to honor the court’s verdict in the parliament.
The Senate began debating the bill on Wednesday but Democratic Party chief whip Luigi Zanda called a halt to the proceedings when it became apparent that the government ranks were divided on the issue, ordering a ‘period of reflection so we can pull the political threads back together and find the path that allows us to proceed in an orderly fashion.’
The Senate may resume the debate on the bill as soon as 23 February.
Conservatives within the government are troubled by a provision that would allow limited adoption rights to same-sex couples – something that has little support among Italian voters.
However Pope Francis has declined to enter the debate over civil unions in Italy – which may be helpful for the government in getting its senators lined up on the issue.
‘The Pope does not meddle with Italian politics,’ Pope Francis said in a press conference given while returning from Mexico by plane this week.
‘Because the Pope belongs to everybody, he cannot enter the concrete, domestic politics of a country. This is not the Pope‘s role.’
Pope Francis said it was up to Italy’s bishops to take a stand on the issue while stating the importance that same-sex civil unions are not considered to be the same thing as heterosexual marriage.