Italy’s lower house of parliament has backed Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in a confidence vote called by the leader to force into law a bill on same-sex civil unions. A majority of 369 politicians voted for Renzi, and 193 against. Gay couples will now be given the same legal protections as heterosexual married couples.
To become law the bill, which also gives some rights to unmarried heterosexual couples, must be formally approved by the lower house later on Wednesday (May 11).
However, this is seen as a mere formality, with the confidence vote considered the major barrier to cross.
Had Renzi lost the vote, he would have been forced to step down as premier. However, with an already healthy majority in parliament, that seemed highly unlikely.
Italy was the last major Western democracy not to legally acknowledge civil partnerships.
Continued opposition from the Catholic Church and conservatives meant the bill initially struggled to gain the support needed. It was then watered down and a clause allowing homosexuals to adopt their partners’ children scrapped.
Adoption is not banned, but judges will be required to rule on a case-by-case basis.
In February, 2016, the upper house of parliament – the Senate – went on to approve the amended bill.
Wednesday’s (May 11) historic vote follows ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. Last year, it found that Italy had violated human rights by not offering enough legal protection for same-sex partnerships.