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Italy prepares new adoption law including gay couples, opposition firm

ROME (Reuters) - Italy’s government is working on a new law on adopting children, to include gay couples, after cutting a controversial adoption provision from a bill on civil unions last week, a prominent minister said on Sunday.

A priest shouts slogans during a rally against same-sex unions and gay adoption in Rome, Italy January 30, 2016. REUTERS/Remo Casilli

The bill on civil unions for same-sex and heterosexual couples split parliament down religious lines and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi stripped out the most controversial clause, which would have allowed unmarried couples some adoption rights.

Reform Minister Maria Elena Boschi, a close Renzi ally, told La Repubblica newspaper new legislation would apply to gay couples and single people.

“We are preparing a very complex law which does not only regard adoptions for gay couples,” she was quoted as saying.

Boschi added, “We need to get to grips with the entire adoption system, update it, review it, simplify it.”

The “stepchild adoption” clause, which would have allowed one partner to adopt the other’s child, split Renzi’s ruling coalition, partly because of fears it would encourage surrogacy parenting, which is illegal in Italy.

Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks welcomed the Senate’s approval of the bill on Twitter last week, adding, “I trust next step will be law allowing stepchild adoption.”

But continued opposition to the idea from politicians close to the Catholic Church was underlined on Sunday by Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, whose small New Centre Right party (NCD) governs in the coalition.

Asked in an interview with Il Messaggero newspaper what he thought of Boschi’s plan to review adoption legislation, Alfano said NCD had already dealt with “these subjects” by voting for the bill and would go no further.

“We would never have voted for the (civil unions) if we had been told stripping out the ‘stepchild’ was temporary, pending a new law. We will absolutely not budge on this,” he said.

Italy is the only major Western country that does not yet recognize civil unions, and gay rights groups were bitterly disappointed that the eventual bill did not consider children.

A poll found on Saturday that a majority of Italians surveyed opposed the stepchild adoption provision.

Reporting by Isla Binnie; Editing by Ros Russell