Thousands of Italians rallied in Rome on Saturday in support of a bill that would give legal status to unmarried gay and heterosexual couples couples. The proposal, which has been harshly criticized by the Italian justice minister and the top Italian bishop, would give unmarried couples combined medical insurance, the right to visit their partner in prisons or hospitals, inheritance rights, and decision-making authority should one partner become sick. Couples would have to live together for nine years before they would be entitled to property rights, but if the legislation is passed, couples would be able to take advantage of the other legal protections immediately.
The Vatican has said that giving unmarried couples rights would threaten traditional families. A "traditional" family is held by the Vatican to be a marital union between a man and a woman.