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Civil rights. In Italy, a civil unions bill is stumbling over whether to allow same-sex partners to adopt children, while the far-right pushes for prison time for people who turn to overseas surrogacy.

Italy legislates families

The battle in Italy over civil unions is preparing to move from Parliament to the streets. The organizers of Family Day announced this week they had moved the event scheduled for Jan. 30 in Rome from Piazza San Giovanni to the Circus Maximus due to the wide success. “We are expecting a much larger crowd than the demonstration of June 20,” said the neurosurgeon Massimo Gandolfini, chairman of a group called Let’s Protect Our Children.

The Catholic Church is mobilizing all the dioceses of Italy against the Cirinnà bill (named for its sponsor in the Senate), and the Episcopal Conferences of Piedmont and Valle d’Aosta have already guaranteed their presence in the event. There will be presentations of lawyers, together with testimonies of ‘traditional’ families and, as happened in June, it will be attended by many children. A strong demand — according to the organizers, who announced that 1 million people are expected to participate — that only a family of two people of different sexes is entitled to have children.

The other side is mobilizing, too. Many LGBT associations, while considering the Cirinnà bill the minimum standard in regards to the rights granted to homosexuals, are not willing to question it. And indeed, they ask Parliament and the government not to take any steps backward, especially with regard to one of the hottest points of the law, such as the ability to adopt the biological child of the partner. Various groups have planned demonstrations in 82 Italian cities, plus London, Berlin and Boston, around the hashtag #svegliatitalia. (The rally point in Rome is the Pantheon.)

While the streets heat up either against or in defense of something that the rest of Europe has already implemented some time ago, the Democratic Party is desperately trying to mediate in Parliament to save both the bill and the unity — increasingly at risk — of the party.

After the assembly of senators, Wednesday it was the representatives’ turn to decide on a course that would allow to approve the bill without an additional vote in the Senate. The meeting, however, was made more difficult by the amendment tabled just before by the Catholic component of the party, the first signatory Sen. Giampiero Dalla Zuanna. This amendment seeks to go after people who have turned to surrogacy abroad. It even includes prison time, with sentences ranging from three months to two years plus a fine between €600,000 and €1 million. For anyone who “organizes, promotes or advertises the practice of surrogacy motherhood,” the penalties go from six to 12 years, plus a similar fine.

Proposing prison terms for those who resort to surrogacy abroad means raising the bar extremely high, threatening to blow up any possible rapprochement between the sensitivities of the Democratic Party. “Between the secret vote and the dissidents in the Senate, there are already too many risks for the bill and we are afraid that important parts of the law may be buried, putting at risk the entire initiative,” says democrat Walter Verini.

The only way out to avoid extreme contrasts is looking for a lowest common denominator that satisfies everyone. That is why yesterday’s meeting did not exclude the possibility of maintaining child adoption, but without making it automatic as it is now. Instead, it would make it subject to a pre-adoption period to assess the environmental and affective conditions in which the baby would live, with the final decision to be made by a juvenile judge.

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