On the evening of May 11, the Italian Chamber of Deputies approved by a wide margin a legislative proposal to legalize civil unions for gay (and heterosexual) couples. Known as Cirinnà’s Law, after its sponsor, Senator Monica Cirinnà, the bill had been passed by the Senate in February. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi was so adamant about getting it passed by the Chamber that he asked for a vote of confidence the same day, which the government won, 369-193. The measure then passed handily—372-51, with 99 abstentions—as no party wanted a political showdown ahead of local elections already scheduled for June 5.
Opponents of civil unions fought a valiant battle against the bill until the end. I was especially impressed by a young deputy of the Northern League Party (Lega Nord), Massimiliano Fedriga. Representing a regional constituency in Northeastern Italy (Friuli Venezia Giulia), Fedriga made a cogent and impassioned plea for the primacy of the natural family and the rights of the child. He argued forcefully against gay adoption (so-called stepchild adoption was removed from the original Senate law, but other adoptions are permitted), stating “there is no right to a child.” There may be a “desire” to have a child, but desire is “not a right,” he added. “Il bambino ha il diritto a un papà e una mamma,” Fedriga insisted. “The child has a right to a father and a mother.” Anticipating demands for adoption rights by couples utilizing surrogates, Fedriga also told fellow deputies that surrogacy is tantamount to buying a life: “La vita non si compra!” he declared. “Life is not for sale!”
While Fedriga was making his speech in the Chamber he was receiving on his cell phone what can only be described as hate messages—which he read out loud. “I wish you a homosexual son who will someday commit suicide,” one of them said.
The 35-year-old Fedriga will continue his passionate defense of the family and the child. The day after the measure was approved, he and a small but determined band of like-minded deputies held a news conference, announcing that they would call for a referendum to abrogate the law. Millions of Italians oppose civil unions (not to mention gay marriage). This was evident when over one million people attended a “Family Day” rally on January 30 in Rome’s enormous Circus Maximus. Such a turnout relative to the population (61 million) must not be underestimated. The equivalent in the United States would be well over 5 million people showing up at the March for Life in Washington, DC—something that’s pretty much unimaginable.
An interesting footnote is related to the upcoming mayoral elections on June 5. One of the leading candidates for mayor of Rome, Alfio Marchini, has openly stated that if he were to become mayor he would refuse to preside over civil unions.
The day after the bill’s approval, Renzi reacted to opposition by telling an interviewer that when he was sworn in as prime minister he “swore on the constitution, not the Gospel.” Perhaps Renzi needs a refresher course on the Italian Constitution, which states: “The Republic recognizes the rights of the family as a natural society founded on marriage.” (Title 2, Article 29)
On May 20, President Sergio Mattarella signed the bill into law even though he had made clear during deliberations that he did not favor civil unions. Mattarella could have sent it back to the deputies because the Renzi government would not allow any debate on the bill in the Chamber after changes to it were made in the Senate. Renzi is very keen on Italy joining the rest of the Europe in so far as social matters are concerned. The European Court of Human Rights, in a July 2015 ruling, had condemned Italy for not having legislation spelling out gay rights.
The major gay Italian activist group, known as “Arcigay,” has been pushing for civil unions, same-sex marriage, and other gay measures for a long time. Several years ago they succeeded in introducing gay-rights parades throughout Italy, including in Rome, thumbing their noses at more than one Pope. As Deputy Fedriga related in the Chamber on May 11, Arcigay has succeeded in imposing a cultural program in schools in his region that includes forcing very young children to cross dress. Boys are told to put on frilly dresses of a “dama” (maiden) and the girls to dress as a “cavaliere” (gentleman), complete with jacket and bowtie, to show there is no difference in gender. Boys and girls are the same—this is Arcigay’s idea of equality!
Despite attacks, the family is still strong in Italy as turnout for Family Day demonstrated. And so is the Catholic Church. The President of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, voiced disapproval of the Cirinnà bill all along. The day after the law passed, one parish priest in the central Italian town of Carovilli (near Isernia) posted a “death notice” outside his church that read: “The funeral bells ringing in this church announce with sorrow that last night, with the approval of the Cirinnà law, with Catholics voting in favor, marriage and family died.”
Emboldened by a strong vote of confidence, Renzi is likely to introduce a law on stepchild adoptions via surrogacy at some point. As his fellow prime minister, Xavier Bettel of Luxembourg—who is gay and “married” to a man—counselled Renzi: “one step at a time!”
The Family Day movement has already adopted a hashtag that reads “Renzi, we will remember!”