Italy on Wednesday joined the rest of the Western world in extending legal recognition to same-sex relationships with parliament overwhelmingly backing gay civil unions after a long battle to overcome opposition led by the Catholic church.
Lawmakers in the lower-house Chamber of Deputies voted 372-51 in favour of the legislation with 99 abstentions after an earlier vote of confidence in the government on the issue had been equally comfortably carried, making approval of the bill itself automatic.
The long-awaited and much-disputed legislation was hailed as a landmark but also criticised as falling short of full equality for gay couples, particularly in relation to adoption and marriage rights.
Gay rights activist Federica Frasconi, 26, was in a small crowd outside parliament for the votes.
“We hope the next law, which we will all fight for … will be for marriage and adoption. And I hope there will be also a law against homophobia,” she told AFP.
Monica Cirinna, the senator who was the main author of the bill, said she expected the first civil union ceremonies “no later than September” and dismissed opponents who vowed to seek a referendum aimed at overturning the law.