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ROME, February 25, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Italy’s Senate has passed bill recognizing homosexual civil unions, but because of a last-minute deal brokered with Catholic parliamentarians, it will deny such unions the right to adopt. It must still be passed by the House of Deputies.

Virginia Code Nunziante, president of the Association for the Defence of the Family, told LifeSiteNews the bill is almost certain to pass the lower house because of the agreement of Catholic members of Parliament to support it with the right to adoption removed and because the government has formally backed it – a move almost always reserved for security, financial, and economic measures, but “never on a moral issue.”

But Democratic Party Prime Minister Matteo Renzi was elected on a reform platform and has promised to bring Italy “up” to the standards set by most other Western European countries regarding sexual minority rights. Since the Italian constitution has enshrined marriage, the best his coalition could do was bring in a equal rights law granting homosexuals the right to have their relationships recognized by the government as “marriages” in all but name.

However, “the Catholic vote,” in Nunziante's words, balked at homosexual adoption, and Renzi agreed to drop it from the bill to secure Catholic support.

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The homosexual group Rainbow Families said the bill had been “emptied out.” But Prime Minister Renzi defended his compromise, saying, “Between 'everything never and 'nothing today' it's better to do a little piece today.”

But Nunziante's group is just as unhappy. “The Catholic vote has betrayed Catholics in the public square,” Nunziante said. Her alliance of pro-family groups lobbied hard with both the public and the Catholic parliamentarians, “asking them to oppose completely this bill.” More than a million marched – and bussed – on Rome last month to protest the bill.

Supporters of the measure, said Nunziante, shamed members of Parliament with the message that “we are the only country in Europe that does not have such a law – which is not true, by the way. They said, 'We cannot not give civil rights to homosexuals. Of course, they have the same civil rights as anyone else already.” As well, the European Court of Rights condemned Italy for discrimination against homosexuals.

Why is her group opposed to the bill? “Because it against the natural law and against divine law,” she said. “We cannot accept that. Pope Benedict said there are certain non-negotiable values, and the family is one of them. Homosexuality attacks the family.”

Once the bill passes the House of Deputies, only President Sergio Mattarella, a retired constitutional judge, stands between it and implementation. “He can declare it is unconstitutional,” said Nunziante. “He doesn't have to do that. We can only hope.”