The Italian Senate approved on Thursday a watered-down bill allowing civil unions for same-sex and heterosexual couples, with the government using a confidence motion to ram the contested legislation through the upper house. To overcome opposition from within his own center-left coalition, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi had to strip out the most controversial part of the text, which would have granted unmarried couples some adoption rights.

The issue split parliament down religious lines, with politicians close to the Roman Catholic Church arguing that what was dubbed a ‘stepchild adoption clause’ would encourage gays to have babies with surrogate mothers, which is illegal in Italy. The motion was approved by 173 to 71. If he had lost the vote, Renzi would have had to resign. The bill will pass to the lower house of parliament later this year for final approval. Italy is the only major Western country that has yet to recognise civil unions and Renzi hailed Thursday’s vote as historic, saying he had been right to put the government’s future on the line over the heated issue. READ MORE