International - POSTED: 2007/05/13 16:02
Over 250,000 people gathered in Rome Saturday to protest a bill currently before parliament which would give legal status to unmarried heterosexual and same-sex couples. The bill was approved by Italy's cabinet in February, but has been harshly criticized by the Italian justice minister and the top Italian bishop. The proposal 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. Saturday's Family Day rally, not organized by the Vatican, drew tens of thousands of families. Organizers said over 1.5 million people participated, but an early police estimate was lower at about 250,000. Supporters of the proposed legislation held a counter-demonstration, which was attended by some 10,000 people. A similar rally in support of the bill was held in March.