By Meg Jalsevac
ROME, February 27, 2007 – Italian Prime Minister, Romano Prodi has announced that legislation to officially recognize homosexual civil unions in Italy has been thrown out, in his final attempt to maintain the integrity of his coalition and political position.
Prodi attempted to step down from his position as Prime Minister last week after his coalition lost a key Senate vote regarding Italian foreign policy. The extreme division in the Italian government was apparent as two of his own coalition members abstained from the vote and tipped the scale away from Prodi’s favor.
After Italian President Georgio Napolitano refused to accept Prodi’s resignation, Prodi commenced an effort to reestablish his authority. He drafted a 12 point document intended to repair damaged parliamentary relationships and encourage participation in an expanded coalition. Eliminating the civil unions bill from the governmental agenda was a concession that Prodi agreed to in an attempt to win over some of the conservative members of the government.
Just nine short months ago, Prodi campaigned on a liberal platform which included civil unions and expanded abortion rights. Since his election, the Italian government has been fraught with division as parliamentary members hailed from a broad range of political and moral backgrounds from Communist to Christian Democrat. Prodi maintained just a slim majority of only two seats in the Senate.
As recently as January of this year, Prodi had announced that he was pushing ahead with his agenda to introduce civil unions to Italian society. Earlier this month, his cabinet approved the initial bill by a very close margin. A bitter dispute was expected if the legislation was presented to the Senate as certain members had sworn to oppose the bill.
Italy’s European Union Minister, Emma Bonino had threatened members of Parliament that to vote against the civil unions bill could bring sanctions against Italy from the European Union for violation of anti-discrimination policies.
Italian clergy, including Pope Benedict himself, have been very vocal in their opposition to Prodi’s proposed bill. Pope Benedict has repeatedly condemned civil unions referring to them as “pseudo-matrimony.” He has launched a campaign to protect and recognize the value and dignity of the traditional family.
Monsignor Giuseppe Betori, secretary general of the influential Italian bishops conference, voiced his concerns regarding the bill and was quoted saying that civil unions “eradicate the values that we present to society.”
Prodi has agreed to remain in office until a vote of confidence can be held. The vote is expected to be held within a few days. If he should lose, Italy would experience its second campaign and election in 9 months.
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