Amid controversy over a northern city’s decision to allow cohabiting couples to register as fami-lies, Family Policy Minister Rosy Bindi on Thursday urged the government to press ahead with a law guaranteeing rights for unwed couples. ‘I believe it’s time for state legislation which would tackle all aspects of this issue in a comprehensive way,’ the centrist minister said. ‘It’s in the in-terests of the government to deal with this once and for all, otherwise, we risk a storm in a tea-cup after every single (local) initiative,’ Bindi added. The minister was referring to Padua, whose centre-left council approved a motion allowing unwed couples, including same-sex couples, to register with the city as ‘families based on ties of affection’ and receive certificates attesting to their family status. Such documents are required in Italy for certain administrative and legal pro-cedures, such as joining public housing waiting lists or obtaining rights to assist sick family members. The motion, presented by an openly gay, leftist councillor, was approved by 26 votes to seven.
Padua’s move triggered a storm. It was praised by the centre-left governing coalition as a step towards guaranteeing the rights of unmarried couples but slammed by the opposition and the Vatican as an attack on marriage and family values. The Vatican said it was the thin end of the wedge, which would eventually lead to the legalisation of gay marriages. The Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano said in a recent editorial that Padua’s move was ‘unacceptable’ and ‘the umpteenth bid to create a parallel model to the family. Behind this is the gradual cultural and le-gal introduction of alternative families, particularly homosexual ones,’ it said.
Alessandro Zan, the Padua councillor who drew up the motion, said that ‘it will give cohabiting couples the rights and benefits which many laws already grant them but which they cannot claim because of the lack of official family certification.’ He nonetheless said he hoped the deci-sion would encourage Premier Romano Prodi to push ahead with his programme pledge to in-troduce legal rights for long-term, cohabiting couples.