- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Italian parliament on Wednesday passed a bill granting civil unions to same-sex couples, becoming the last major Western country to approve of the practice.

Italian Prime Minster Matteo Renzi called for a confidence vote on the bill, ending debate in the legislature, despite strong opposition from church leaders. It passed in the Chamber of Deputies by a 369 to 193 vote.

“Today is a day of celebration in which Italy has taken a step forwards,” Mr. Renzi said in a radio interview after the legislation was passed, according to Reuters.

The legislation gives gay couples the right to take each other’s surname, receive pension benefits from ​deceased partners and inherit assets as if they were married.

The most controversial aspect of the bill was the “stepchild adoption” clause, which ​would have allowed​ gay people to adopt their partner’s children. It prompted outrage from social conservatives and was eventually watered down to allow judges to grant same-sex parental adoption rights in certain circumstances.

The bill also provided benefits for cohabiting but unmarried couples of any sexuality, allowing the partners to be treated as next of kin in the event of illness, death or imprisonment.

While church leaders said the bill went too far, gay-rights groups said it did not go far enough. During the vote, LGBT activists gathered outside of the parliament​,​ with one banner reading: “This is just the beginning.”

The Italian conservative party said it would call for a referendum to block the legislation.

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