Friday, January 12, 2007

Civil unions are counterproductive


Vatican City, 11 Jan. (AKI) - Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday warned Italian lawmakers against the planned approval of legal rights to civil unions. "Projects aimed at granting improper legal recognition to forms of unions other (than marriage) appear dangerous and counterproductive as they inevitably weaken and destabilise the legitimate family based on matrimony," the pontiff told a gathering of local administrators with the city of Rome, led by mayor Walter Veltroni, the capital's province and the Lazio region.

The pope first stepped into a debate on highly controversial legislation proposed by Italy's progressive government on 22 December, when he condemned the legal recognition of civil unions, including gay couples. "I can't hide my concern about legislation on de facto couples," the pontiff said at the time in a Christmas speech to the Rome clergy.

Benedict moreover harshly criticised last month the possibility that gay couples could be given the same rights as a husband and wife.

The Italian government announced on 7 December it would draft legislation giving legal rights to civil unions including homosexual couples by the beginning of next year despite the opposition of some Catholic coalition members.

Family minister Rosy Bindi, a practising Catholic, shocked many in her coalition and in the conservative opposition when she announced in May, shortly after the new government was sworn in, that Italy had a duty to discuss some kind of recognition of civil unions - even in the face of warnings from the Roman Catholic Church that it opposed any move perceived as a threat to the traditional family.

Her coalition and the conservative opposition were shocked... Does that equal scandalized?

The measure was not part of the electoral programme of the broad eight-party progressive coalition of premier Romano Prodi whose members, including one prominent Catholic party, are deeply divided on the issue.

The Vatican warned Prodi before the vote it condemned civil unions and gay marriages.

When one has broad coalitions, it's wise not to rock the boat on divisive issues, no matter how progressive the coalition parties may be. Prodi doesn't have absolute control like the Socialists in Spain. Of course, floating the issue like this could simply be a ploy to see how it will do. If it goes down in flames, no harm no foul. I ought to find the numbers for the coalition and the opposition as far as seats. That would be instructive. (I looked, 348 to 281. Prodi's majority, if stable enough, has a chance.)

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