San Marino’s New Gender-Neutral Partnership Law in the Works

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Currently, San Marino has unregistered cohabitation for same-sex couples that is only for immigration purposes. In recent days, three different parties have each revealed new legislative drafts to expand the rights of unmarried cohabiting couples regardless of sexual orientation.

The centrist-leaning coalition voted down a proposal to recognize marriages performed abroad in September of 2015 and the presentation of a new partnership bill this month surprised many in the microstate since it was not included in the government program.

The main party of the 60-MP Legislature, the 21-seat strong Christian Democratic Party (CDP), says it realizes that unmarried couples are a reality and brought its proposal forward, but will not budge on speaking out against the issue of equal adoption rights for same-sex couples and surrogacy for which San Marino has no existing law.

The leftist LabDem and United Left party also presented their own proposals. The center-left junior coalition partner,  Party of Socialists and Democrats (PSD), has insisted that it will not accept any dilution of a partnership bill brought by its majority partner, CDP, while proposing their own law. The United Left includes adoption rights in their draft law and PSD’s bill may do the same and possibly bring the topic of stepchild adoption, or the right of a person to adopt their partner’s child, to the forefront.

For more information on the LGBT rights situation in San Marino, please visit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_in_San_Marino

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Italian Senate Approves Civil Unions Bill, Government Mulls Adoption Law

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Italy’s Senate voted 173-71 last Friday in favor of a civil unions bill for same-sex couples.

The bill was submitted in 2014, but conservative parties attempted to hold up the process with a cascade of amendments. The most controversial clause of the bill would have granted stepchild adoption rights, or the ability for a gay person to adopt their partner’s biological child. Unfortunately, many in the opposition and even some in Prime Minister Renzi’s own coalition were uneasy about this clause and it was scrapped to ensure the bill’s passage. The Government instead inserted a clause stating that parents can use court intervention to recognize their parental rights as several judges around the country have already ruled for gay stepparents.

The next move for the Prime Minister was to get out of the amendments stage. M5S, the second-largest party in the Senate, proclaimed that they would not join the Prime Minister’s plan to use a maneuver to skip the amendment round so the pressure mounted on Renzi and he decided to gamble his entire coalition to achieve a confidence vote which allowed the bill to reach the Chamber of Deputies. Had Renzi’s confidence vote not prevailed, new Parliamentary elections would have been held. The result was a landslide victory in the Senate with M5S boycotting the voting process despite the bulk of the party having voiced its support for both civil unions and stepchild adoption.

The bill now heads to the Chamber of Deputies which is more liberal and the media predicts an easy passage. Many expect the next vote to be held in April, and if the bill is approved without any amendments, it would go directly from the Chamber to the President for his promulgation. The Civil Union Bill will become law following publication in the country’s Official Gazette.

After the Senate round was done last week, LGBT activists announced their dismay and disappointment for the lack of adoption rights, although, according to a top member of Parliament, the Government is planning a separate adoption bill for singles and gay couples.

Stay tuned.

Italy’s Prime Minister Relents on Adoption Rights within the Civil Unions Bill

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Prime Minister Renzi has asked his coalition to remove all the provisions of the Civil Unions Bill mentioning adoption rights.

The stepchild adoption clause, which would have given same-sex couples the right to adopt their partner’s biological child, has been the most controversial part of the bill since it was submitted two years ago. Parliamentary rivals and even some members of Renzi’s own circle were not keen on the idea of stepchild adoption and disagreement inside the Senate led to a standstill.

Italy is the last major nation in Western Europe without any legal recognition for gay couples and Renzi defended his move to drop the adoption clause on a radio interview by stating, “Between ‘everything never’ and ‘nothing today,’ it’s better to do a little piece now” regarding the family law reforms. Since his announcement, LGBT rights groups have expressed their disappointment with some claiming they feel betrayed.

The Prime Minister hopes to have the new, watered-down version of the Civil Unions Bill passed in the Senate by Friday so it can advance to the Chamber of Deputies where a larger left-leaning majority resides. However, getting the bill out of the Senate may require a confidence vote, a risky move that would equal new Parliamentary elections if it is unsuccessful. Although polls show that Renzi’s party would come out victorious if an election was held now, holding new elections would cause the bill to lapse and require the Government to start all over again.

For more information the LGBT right’s situation in Italy, please visit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_in_Italy

Australia: Victoria to Register Overseas Unions, Legalizes Full Same-sex Adoption

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Last Tuesday, Royal Assent was given to the Relationship Amendment Bill 2015 passed by Victoria’s Legislature. The bill will recognize same-sex marriages and other unions as domestic partnerships in the Australian state if one of the persons is a Victorian resident and the law is expected to go into effect on October 1st at the latest. Victoria joins New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania where foreign relationships are recognized as something other than a de facto union.

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Australia has a nationwide de facto union law with some of the rights of heterosexual marriages, and while several territories have expanded the scope of rights granted to same-sex couples over the years, gay marriage itself is not performed or recognized as a marriage in the country due to a statutory law passed by the Federal Government in 2004 that amended the Marriage Act 1961 to state that marriage is only between a man and a woman.

When the Australian Capital Territory attempted to change its marriage laws in 2013 to allow gay couples to marry, the Australian High Court unanimously struck it down with a ruling arguing that Australia’s matrimonial laws are a Federal issue and must be changed through the nation’s Parliament and may not be changed on a local level.

Attempts to approve a national same-sex marriage bill in recent years have mostly been hindered by the lack of a free vote on the issue. Currently, the Australian Government is mulling a plebiscite on whether to legalize same-sex marriage while the opposition demands a Parliamentary free vote before the next elections which must be held by January 2017.

Victoria has also become the latest place to expand joint adoption rights to same-sex couples after a bill was passed last December. Although the state government received applause for expanding adoption rights, the bill was also met with some criticism from LGBT rights groups as conservatives in the state’s legislature succeeded in inserting a last-minute clause allowing religious organizations to refuse same-sex couples if it violates their beliefs. The hard choice for the ruling party was then made to pass the bill as is rather than scrap it. The new adoption law is scheduled to come into effect by September 1st.

Victoria will then join the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Tasmania and Western Australia in allowing full adoption rights to gay couples.

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For more information on the LGBT rights situation in Australia, please visit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_in_Australia

Bermudan Government Planning Civil Unions

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Tensions have been high on the island since both those in favor and against same-sex marriage have had a chance to speak out in recent days, and this week, Bermuda’s Government announced that it will attempt to bring civil union legislation to the island while reinforcing the current matrimonial law that only allows heterosexual marriage.

The island’s Attorney General stated the Government’s intention of recognizing gay couples, and while he rejected the notion of putting the marriage issue to a referendum, he stressed that there is no plan to bring gay marriage to Bermuda.

Instead, the plan is to introduce unions only for gay couples that would allow them to work in Bermuda without a permit and would recognize overseas same-sex marriages as civil unions. The second half of the plan is the most controversial and would amend the Matrimonial Causes Act, which states that marriage is between a man and a woman, to have supremacy over the Human Rights Act, which outlaws discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The move to make the Matrimonial Act trump the other would make it harder for the Legislature to pass a gay marriage law in the future.

The Human Rights Act is frequently cited in pro-LGBT rulings such as a 2015 adoption verdict in favor of gay couples and the ruling by the Chief Justice that set the precedent for couples to be able to reside and work in Bermuda as spouses of Bermudians regardless of orientation. The latter case prompted the Government to try passing a bill recognizing these rights through the House of Assembly before month’s end as the Chief Justice set a February 29th deadline for the Government to act.

If the civil union law fails this month, the Government will let the Chief Justice decide the next step.

For more information the LGBT rights situation in Bermuda, please visit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_in_Bermuda

#IVoteYes: Social Media Outrage Turns Up the Heat in Italy’s Senate

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When a February 6th article appeared in the online newspaper of the Italian Senate’s second-largest Opposition group, Five Star Movement or M5S for short, declaring that the party would use a conscience vote on the stepchild adoption clause of the pending Civil Unions bill, it sent the online world into a frenzy and caused several members of Parliament to reassure a ‘Yes’ vote.

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As shown on this map (courtesy of Wikipedia), Italy is the last major nation in Western Europe that does not recognize gay couples. The stepchild adoption clause, which allows a person to adopt their partner’s child, has been the most talked about part of the civil union legislation with many predicting it to cause the vote to be tight as several members of the ruling coalition are already opposed to the idea. The conscience vote, an option that allows a person to vote in any direction and not incur their party’s wrath, was seen by many as a risk to the bill and M5S was accused of backtracking.

The Five Star party bore the brunt of the sudden outrage following the newsletter post and #dietrofrontM5S (About-face M5S) became the top-trending tag on Twitter in Italy. Immediately following the public’s furor, M5S MPs in the Senate began to publicly announce their support for stepchild adoption.

According to gay.it, as of February 8th, at least 30 of the Senate’s 35 M5S members have so far announced a vote in favor of the stepchild clause since the twitter debacle.

When asked about the debacle, Matteo Renzi, Italy’s Prime Minister, said that he would not give up on the adoption clause. Renzi was quoted as saying “I will bring home stepchild adoption. It will tough, but not impossible”.

The M5S newspaper published a follow-up article on February 7th stressing that it will vote Yes on Civil Unions while defending its position to allow a conscience vote regarding adoption rights.

Italy’s Civil Unions bill passed the first hurdle last Monday and the Senate will continue its debate during the amendments round this week.

For more information on the LGBT rights situation in Italy, please visit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_in_Italy

What’s Next For Slovenia?

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In 2009, Slovenia’s Constitutional Court told Parliament that the civil partnership law passed in 2006 needed to be improved, especially in regards to inheritance rights. Over six years later the Court’s ruling has yet to be fulfilled.

Two attempts from two different government coalitions have both resulted in a majority of voters repealing the most recent bills passed by Parliament. In March of 2012, a civil partnership bill to give same-sex couples all the rights of marriage barring full adoption rights was defeated in a referendum 54.5%-45.5% – although the right of stepchild adoption, or a law permitting the adoption of one’s partner, remained. After a new coalition was sworn in during 2014, work began on a bill that would go all the way and grant gay couples the right to marry and jointly adopt. The bill was met with fierce opposition from conservative groups who once again prevailed in holding a referendum that would lead to the bill’s demise by a margin of 66-33% on December 20th, 2015.

Following the December 2015 referendum, an independent member of Parliament presented a bill that would update the current civil partnership law, but neither grant the term marriage nor change existing adoption laws. This carefully-crafted bill had been written in 2014 in response to the 2012 referendum, but was placed on hold while the marriage proposal was brought to Parliament for a vote instead.

As for same-sex marriage, it seems to be off the cards for now as by law, a proposal similar to something that is rejected by the public cannot be resubmitted for at least one year. The ever-looming risk of another expensive referendum being held also makes it seem unlikely that the government would try a marriage bill again so soon.

For more information on the LGBT rights situation, please visit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_in_Slovenia