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In Italy, Protesters Push For Rights For Same-Sex Couples

Supporters of same-sex civil union hold alarm clocks "to wake up Italia" on January 23, near the Pantheon in central Rome. Italy is the only major Western European country not to have enacted legislation allowing gay couples to have their relationships legally recognized and protected. A bill which the Senate will start examining on Thursday would enable same-sex couples to enter civil unions.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Italy on Saturday to demonstrate in support of a bill that would allow same-sex couples to enter into civil unions.

The predominantly Catholic country is the last western European nation that doesn't offer same-sex couples any legal rights.

As NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports for our Newscast unit, many activists are determined to change that.

Sylvia says the square outside the pantheon in Rome was packed on Saturday:

"LGBT activists were joined by environmentalists, trade unions, students and ordinary citizens.

"They chanted, 'Wake up Italy, it's time to be civilized.'

"The civil unions bill goes to Parliament next week after years of obstruction by Catholic politicians. And Prime Minister Matteo Renzi says its passage can no longer be delayed.

"Last year, the European Court of Human Rights found Italy in violation of the human rights convention that guarantees respect for private and family life."

Not everyone supports the bill. Sylvia notes that opponents claim it's "a Trojan horse toward same-sex marriage," and object to a provision that would allow a person in a same-sex relationship to adopt his or her partner's children.

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