Italy Senate passes civil unions bill
February 25th, 2016
Italy has finally taken steps to join most of the rest of Western Europe in recognizing the validity of same-sex relationships. (AP)
Italy’s Senate voted Thursday to grant legal recognition to civil unions, as the last holdout in Western Europe took a compromise step to give some rights to gay couples after a bitter, years-long battle.
It passed 173-71, well over the threshold necessary.
In a nation heavily influenced by the Catholic Church, this has been a difficult process and is a break-through. The Catholic hierarchy has spoken in opposition to the bill and religious affiliation had caused a rift in the ruling Democratic Party.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has been increasingly desperate to get a civil rights bill on the books. To ensure passage, he made the bill a conscience vote, one in which a failure to pass would result in his removal as head of government.
Even so, the bill was headed for defeat before it was amended to exclude an adoption provision which did not have the necessary support in the legislature. The bill originally allowed one partner to adopt the other partner’s natural children (couple adoption of non-biological children has very little support).
As the final product was not as anticipated, the bill is not being met with universal jubilation. It is, nevertheless, a significant and important step towards equal rights for gay Italians.
To become law, the bill must now pass the lower Chamber of Deputies.
Greek parliament votes for civil unions
December 24th, 2015
Greece’s parliament has approved a bill granting same-sex couples the right to a civil union, becoming one of the last European countries to give them legal recognition after years of opposition from the influential Orthodox church.
The bill does not include adoption rights and may have other deficiencies.
Cyprus votes for civil unions
November 28th, 2015
Cyprus is an island in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Turkey and Lebanon. Traditionally ethnically and religiously Greek, it is the easternmost part of the European Union. The nation of about one million people has a democratic government, which is currently controlled by a pro-West party. (About 17% of the population is Turkish, but they consider themselves a separate nation and do not participate in Cyprus’ legislature).
Cypriots tend to be religious and the Orthodox Church (Greek) has significant sway on the community. But while the Church – and the population – is socially conservative, inclusion in the European Union appears at this time to be an economic necessity. And European courts and political entities have stressed the importance of recognition of same-sex couples.
On Thursday, the Cyprus House of Representatives voted to allow civil unions, with all the rights (other than adoption) granted to married couples. (kaleidoscot.com)
The Cypriot parliament has voted in favour of the Civil Partnership Bill, meaning that same-sex unions will be legally recognised in the Mediterranean republic for the first time.
The House of Representatives voted by 39 to 12 in favour of extending same-sex couples in civil partnerships the same legal rights as civil marriage. However, join adoption rights were not included in the new civil union legislation.
Italy edges towards equality
October 21st, 2015
Italy is the only nation in Western Europe that does not offer some form of recognition for same-sex couples. However, that appears to be about to change. (thelocal.it)
Italy’s parliament began debating a civil union bill for gay couples on Wednesday, kicking off a hotly-awaited rights battle championed by Premier Matteo Renzi but expected to drag on for months.
While attempts by previous administrations to change the law have been thwarted by parties with deep ties to the powerful Catholic Church, this time the majority of opposition parties have said they support the bill.
The bill has significant popular support and changes in the tone of language from the Holy See suggest that opposition from the Church and her faithful will be less vehement than in the past.
Greece, Italy, and Cyprus move towards civil unions
June 10th, 2015
Three Southern European countries are taking steps closer to civil unions.
Today Italy‘s lower house has passed a motion supporting civil unions. (ansa.it)
The motion commits the government “to promote the adoption of a law on civil unions, particularly with regard to the condition of the people of same sex”.
It also commits the government “to ensure equal treatment throughout the nation” of civil unions. Premier Matteo Renzi and Justice Minister Andrea Orlando have both said recently that Italy needs a civil unions law.
The motion was approved with 204 votes in favor, 83 against and 98 abstentions.
While this would, no doubt, have infuriated previous Pope Benedict the Malevolent, when Argentina was considering implementing marriage equality, Pope Francis (who was Archbishop of Buenos Aires at the time) proposed civil unions as a compromise. So Vatican opposition may be less fierce than it would have been a few years back.
In April, the government of Cyprus drafted a civil unions bill and sent it to Parliament. (Gay Star News)
The Cypriot Cabinet Wednesday (6 April) approved a long-awaited civil partnership bill that would allow gay couples to register their relationships and grant them all marriage rights except joint adoption.
The legislation will now be sent to parliament, where it will be discussed and put to a vote.
The bill is considered likely to pass.
Also today, the Greek government announced a bill to enact civil unions. (PappasPost)
Greece’s Ministry of Justice announced today it plans to introduce legislation— for the first time in Greek history— giving Civil Union rights to same sex couples. The bill, which will be part of broader legislation introduced, includes rights on insurance, taxation, inheritance and other privileges afforded to other Greek citizens.
The bill is expected to pass Parliament in Early July.
Civil Unions bill signed in Chile
April 13th, 2015
From the Washington Blade
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet on Monday signed a bill into law that will allow gays and lesbians in the South American country to enter into civil unions. “The civil union law is a vindication in the struggle for sexual diversity rights,” said Bachelet during the signing ceremony that took place at the Presidential Palace in Santiago, the Chilean capital.
The bill passed the Chilean Congress in January and then went for review before the nation’s Constitutional Court.
Currently there are lawsuits for full marriage equality before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Bachelet’s administration is not opposing the lawsuits.
Chile gets civil unions
January 28th, 2015
A bill that would allow same-sex couples to enter into civil unions in Chile on Wednesday received final approval in the South American country’s Congress.
The Chilean Senate approved the measure by a 25-6 vote margin with three abstentions. The bill passed in the country’s House of Representatives by a 78-9 vote margin.
“A historic step against discrimination and for the advancement of human rights has taken place today with the passage of the civil unions bill,” said the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation, a Chilean LGBT advocacy group, in a statement.
President Michelle Bachelet has said she will sign the bill — under which unmarried heterosexual couples would also receive legal recognition — into law.
Malta passes civil unions
April 15th, 2014
The Maltese parliament legalized same-sex unions and gay adoption on Monday in a 37-0 vote, signaling a major change in social policy for a conservative country where Catholicism is the state religion.
“Malta is now more liberal and more European, and it has given equality to all its people,” Labour Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said.
The opposition Nationalist Party abstained from the vote, saying that although it supports civil unions, it has doubts about adoption rights for gay couples.
The bill now goes to the President for a formal approval at which time Malta will become the southernmost part of Europe to recognize same-sex relationships. From what I glean from their local press, they are rather proud of themselves for this move. As they should be.
UPDATE: The opposition party was anxious that their abstention was not seen as opposition to civil unions or even necessarily as an absolute opposition to adoption, but rather that they opposed that the issues were addressed together. They proposed a constitutional amendment to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, which both parties supported.
Civil unions are coming to Malta
April 2nd, 2014
Malta is tiny dot in the Mediterranean Sea south of Sicily. Last September the legislature introduced a bill to provide civil unions which would have all the rights and responsibilities as marriage (including adoption). On February 25th the bill passed committee and now awaits the final third reading before becoming law.
The bill has been on hold since that time due to refusal by the President to sign the bill. (Times of Malta)
Times of Malta reported this morning that the government had postponed the final approval of the Civil Unions Bill as the President had informally told Dr Muscat that he was not willing to sign it into law.
The Bill has been awaiting third reading for five weeks. It would then need to be signed by the President before becoming law. The government is now waiting until President George Abela’s term of office ends on April 4.
Although the incoming President is among the roughly 98% of the half million population that is Catholic, she has no problem signing the bill.
Dr Abela will be succeeded by Family and Social Solidarity Minister Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca who, despite being a staunch Catholic and having opposed divorce, has made it clear she has no problem signing the Bill.
Soon after being nominated for the presidency, Ms Coleiro Preca said since this Bill was an electoral commitment made by the government before the last election she had no problem with it.
The deputy prime minister has promised that the bill will be given its final vote “soon”. To the best of my knowledge, no provision of falcons is required as a condition of the bill.
Chinchilla signs Accidental Civil Unions bill
July 5th, 2013
The bill which passed the Costa Rica legislature this week which may (or may not) allow for same-sex civil unions has been signed. (La Nacion)
“Ya fue firmada y se ordenÃ³ la publicaciÃ³n”, dijo ayer el ministro de ComunicaciÃ³n, Carlos Roverssi, con respecto a la ley que, a criterio de algunos diputados y activistas pro derechos gais, podrÃa validar las uniones homosexuales.
“It was signed and ordered its publication”, said yesterday the Minister of Communication, Carlos Roverssi, with respect to the law that, in the opinion of some deputies and gay rights activists, could validate homosexual unions.
Inquiries have been filed with the nation’s courts to determine whether rights, benefits and obligations of marriage will be granted to same-sex couples.
Costa Rica President will sign accidental Civil Unions bill
July 4th, 2013
After legislators “accidentally” passed a law that includes language that could open a path to same-sex civil unions in the Central American country, President Laura Chinchilla said on Wednesday that she would not veto it, as some lawmakers have urged.
“No, we’re going to go forward and will sign this law. We understand that the debate is over how some interpret the law and this alone is not sufficient for the executive to veto the law,” Chinchilla told reporters, according to a video posted by AmeliaRueda.com.
There will likely be a court challenge to the meaning of the bill, but it looks promising. Prior to this legislation, the law stated that common law marriage was only between a man and a woman. This struck that provision, replacing it with “without discrimination against to human dignity”.
Civil Unions accidentally passed in Costa Rica
July 3rd, 2013
If this actually becomes law, it will be the quirkiest means by which same-sex couples have become recognized. Conservative members of the legislature rallied around a bill, thinking that it dealt with youth and family. It did, just not in the way they supposed. (Tico Times)
Costa Rica’s Legislative Assembly on Monday passed a measure – by accident – that could legalize same-sex civil unions as part of a larger bill, lawmakers noted on Tuesday.
Conservative lawmakers voted for the bill’s passage without recognizing the included language that could be interpreted to change the definition of marriage, according to the daily La NaciÃ³n.
Lawmakers are calling on President Laura Chinchilla to veto the bill they just voted for.
Costa Rica is between 15% and 20% evangelical Christian and the populace strongly opposes equality.
Next Step: civil union states
June 26th, 2013
The overturn of DOMA3 provides a number of benefits for citizens of the marriage equality states. But it simultaneously creates a situation of discrimination for those who live in civil union states.
Before today same-sex couples in New Jersey, for example, had all of the same rights as married couples in New York. That is to say, both were afforded all of the marriage rights and obligations that a state confers but none of the federal rights or obligations. Now, however, New York same-sex couples can avail themselves of a whole host of federal benefits while New Jersey couples remain subjected to a lesser status – not only in name, but in practice.
Currently the states with civil unions (or domestic partnerships) are Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Nevada, and Oregon (Wisconsin offers limited rights). Of these, Colorado, Nevada, and Oregon are banned by state constitution from offering equal marriage status to same-sex couples. Which leaves our next battlegrounds to be Hawaii, Illinois, and New Jersey.
In Hawaii, the legislature has been either voting down (or letting die) marriage equality bills, including one submitted in January of this year. However, this changes the picture and it is likely that marriage will finally come to the state which brought the issue to the nation’s attention.
Illinois’ speaker of the House let die a marriage bill just last month. Equality is likely when the House reconvenes in November.
But New Jersey will be the interesting battle. Governor Christie vetoed a marriage bill in February 2012. But he has also supported civil unions and asserted that “discrimination should not be tolerated”. Although marriage and civil unions simply are not equal, his position was not necessarily contradictory before today.
Now, however, a state can decide if federal benefits should be afforded to their gay citizens. Should the legislature send Christie another marriage bill – and I anticipate that they will – he will have to decide whether he opposes unequal treatment or whether he supports tradition and the teachings of his church. And as Christie has presidential aspirations, this might be the first indicator as to whether the Republican Party can acclimate to the new reality.
The Era of Civil Unions Is Coming To An End
May 17th, 2013
Remember when Civil Unions were the viable alternative to marriage equality? Robert Jones and Daniel Cox of the Public Religion Research Institute explain that those days are quickly drawing to a close:
The changing political composition of civil union supporters shows that the center of gravity of this debate has shifted significantly. The civil union option has moved from being a middle way dominated by political moderates a decade ago to one that is, today, most attractive to political conservatives. And looking ahead, there is evidence that the civil union option may have a limited future, at least if younger Americans are any indication. When given a three-way choice, civil unions are the least popular option among Millennials (Americans born after 1980). Only slightly more than 1-in-10 (13%) Millennials prefer civil unions, while 67% say they support allowing gay and lesbian people to marry, and 15% oppose any legal recognition of a gay couple’s relationship.
Civil Unions come to Colorado
May 1st, 2013
At Midnight, Anna Sher and Fran Simon became the first couple in Colorado to become civil unioned (civilly unioned?). They were one couple of many that have been waiting for a long time to have the state recognize their relationship and it is a joyous day. Mazel Tov!