The Italian parliament approved same-sex civil unions and gave some rights to unmarried heterosexual couples after Prime Minister Matteo Renzi called a confidence vote to force the bill into law, Reuters reports.
Italy is the last major western country to legally recognize gay couples.
The original bill had to be heavily diluted because of divisions in Renzi’s ruling majority.
The bill had faced stiff opposition from Catholic groups, who said it went too far, while gay activists said it was too timid.
Originally presented in 2013, the bill cleared its final real hurdle Wednesday with the confidence vote in the Chamber of Deputies, which passed it by 369 votes to 193.
The chamber then rubber-stamped the bill with a final ballot.
The bill gives gay couples the right to share a surname, draw on their partner’s pension when they die and inherit each other’s assets in the same way as married people.
Cohabiting unmarried couples get the right to be treated as each other’s next of kin if one partner is taken ill, dies or is imprisoned. They also get some rights to a shared home.
Both homosexual and heterosexual couples may also have the right to try to claim alimony at the end of a relationship.
The “stepchild adoption” clause was arguably the most disputed aspect of the bill.
It stoked outrage among social conservatives and Catholics who saw it as a step toward legalizing surrogate motherhood, which is illegal in Italy.
The new legislation allows courts to grant homosexuals parental rights regarding each other’s children in certain circumstances, a practice that has led to a handful of recent rulings in favour of homosexual parents.
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