ROME, September 20, 2005 ( – Like most western nations, Italy is home to a vocal and well-organized homosexual activist movement closely allied to the far left. Italian opposition leader Romano Prodi, on behalf of a coalition of 160 centre-left MPs and gay activists, put forward legislation that would equate homosexual partnerings with lawful marriage. The move was condemned yesterday by the head of the Italian Catholic bishops’ conference at their annual meeting in Rome.

In a letter sent to Arcigay, the main Italian homosexual activist organization, Ruini said that though “other rules” could be set by courts to “protect” civil unions, “the Constitutional Court said that civil unions are not to be compared to families.”

Homosexual activists in Italy have been pushing for common-law couples to have legal recognition in hopes that the move might pave the way for granting legal status to gay couples as well. As the law currently stands, only genuine marriage is legally recognized.

Ruini left the door open to the possibility of recognition of “rights and duties” of unmarried couples. He said, “The body of existing law is large and adaptable to all sorts of situations. Should further specific and real needs emerge, they should not entail a prearranged legislative model to be similar to marriage, but just to be granted rights and duties. And that must also go even for unions not deriving from affection and sex.”

Ruini’s position is shared by Parliamentary Relations Minister Carlo Giovanardi who, speaking at the debate on civil unions, said, “Putting theories aside, the planned laws…are a caricature of marriage, a second class marriage with all the rights but no duties. The aim is to tear marriage apart.”

Giovanardi says he is willing “to take any action to avoid discrimination, if there are any,” but refuses “the ideology that through agreements wants to break apart marriage which is expected by the Constitution.”

The Vatican’s head of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, Javier Cardinal Lozano Barragán, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, issued an even stronger response than Cardinal Ruini’s politically pragmatic position. Barragán said that the legislation would do nothing but sow confusion and undermine the meaning of marriage. In an interview Sunday with the La Repubblica daily, Barragan said creating separate juridical pacts outside marriage could compromise traditional families.