[O]n Thursday, after months of delays and political jousting, the Italian Senate will begin voting on legislation to legalize civil unions, several years after a similar effort failed. The outcome remains uncertain, as lawmakers confront an issue that has challenged traditional social mores, jumbled ideological lines and is being debated as the politics of the Catholic Church are in upheaval.
“Certainly, the fact that it was not going to be an easy vote was something we were aware of,” said Monica Cirinnà, the senator sponsoring the legislation.
The legislation initially seemed headed for a fairly smooth passage. Many Italian cities, including Rome, already offer civil union certifications, though they are mostly symbolic.
Prime Minister Matteo Renzi endorsed the national legislation and predicted that it would be passed in 2015. Some opposition political leaders, including former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, suggested they would support it. But any such certainty has since dissolved; Mr. Berlusconi has softened his position by saying lawmakers in his center-right party Forza Italia should vote their conscience.