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Rome: Thousands protest gay partner bill

Sun 13 May 2007 In: International News

Thousands of Italians, including families with their children, poured into a Rome piazza yesterday to protest a government bill that would give legal rights to unmarried couples, including gays and lesbians. The legislation has been at the centre of a debate dividing Italians. On one side are those who support calls by Pope Benedict to defend the traditional family; on the other are those who say the measure would recognise the basic rights of people who live outside marriage. ``With this demonstration, we wanted to give a signal,'' said Emanuele Cirillo, a 27-year-old Neapolitan who had travelled to Rome for the ‘Family Day' demonstration. ``It must not be a sporadic event, but it must contribute to dialogue and help (people) understand family must be protected.'' People from across Italy began pouring into the massive St. John Lateran piazza in the morning. The demonstrators were entertained by singers, speakers and even clowns and stilt walkers mingled with the crowd to entertain the children. Police earlier in they day estimated the crowed at 250,000 but it later grew larger and they did not give a final estimate. "Living together is not family,'' said Anna Manara, 58. "A commitment such as marriage cements the bond, while other models make it easier to be together and therefore end up making it less valuable.'' Organisers include lay Catholic groups and family associations. While the demonstration has been endorsed by Italian bishops, neither the Vatican nor the bishops' conference is formally behind it. Pope Benedict sent a message to the rally saying popular culture promoted sexual immorality and destroyed the sanctity of marriage. In a speech to the region's bishops, he also decried what he called the “plague” of extramarital unions. The bill at the heart of the debate was proposed by Prime Minister Romano Prodi's centre-left cabinet in February. Prodi has left legislators in his divided coalition free to vote on it according to conscience. The proposed legislation stops short of legalising gay marriage, as was done in Spain and other European countries. It would entitle unmarried couples who live together to rights including hospital visits and inheritance. Critics say the bill would dismantle the traditional family based on marriage between man and woman. Supporters argue that the bill would make Italy a more civilised country by recognising the basic rights of people who live outside marriage, and organised a counter-rally in Rome. Alberico Nunziata, 30, who is gay, said he joined the much smaller counter-demonstration with his partner to "protest against those traditional families who think only they represent a real form of family.'' "There is no need to get married in order to achieve something as a couple, there can be also different form of unions between two people, we personally hope to build a lot together,'' he said.     Ref: (m)

Credit: News Staff

First published: Sunday, 13th May 2007 - 12:00pm

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