Mass rally against gay civil unions in Rome

How EU of­fer to UK’s Cameron is shap­ing up

Kuwait Times - - INTERNAT IONAL -

ROME: Hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple are due to protest in Rome’s Cir­cus Max­imus arena yes­ter­day against a civil unions bill for same-sex cou­ples, a hot­potato is­sue for Prime Min­is­ter Mat­teo Renzi’s govern­ment. “As many peo­ple as pos­si­ble must take part, re­mem­ber this is the only weapon we have!” or­ga­nizer Massimo Gan­dolfini said ahead of the “Fam­ily Day” rally, which be­gins in the cap­i­tal’s an­cient Ro­man char­iot rac­ing sta­dium at 1100 GMT.

Gan­dolfini said he ex­pected to fill the arena, which can take 350,000 peo­ple with­out count­ing the sur­round­ing streets. Au­thor­i­ties said they were pre­par­ing for up to 500,000 peo­ple as coaches be­gan to ar­rive from across the coun­try. Italy is the last ma­jor Western coun­try not to al­low same-sex cou­ples le­gal sta­tus. The Se­nate be­gan ex­am­in­ing the bill on Thurs­day, which would en­able gay peo­ple to com­mit to one an­other be­fore a state of­fi­cial and, in cer­tain cir­cum­stances, adopt each other’s chil­dren and in­herit resid­ual pen­sion rights.

In 2007, an­other vast “Fam­ily Day” forced the cen­tre-left govern­ment of Ro­mano Prodi to drop a much less am­bi­tious civil union pro­ject-and the fail­ure of the bill was cited as one of the rea­sons be­hind the fall of his govern­ment early the fol­low­ing year. Sup­port­ers say Italy has no choice this time but to change, point­ing to re­peated com­plaints from the Euro­pean Court of Hu­man Rights. But op­po­nents hope their protest, backed by the Catholic Church, will slam the brakes on the bill. The Ital­ian Bish­ops Con­fer­ence (CEI) on Fri­day said it was “con­cerned” about the “process un­der­way of putting mar­riage and civil unions on the same level-with the in­tro­duc­tion of an al­ter­na­tive to the fam­ily”.

‘Bea­con for Europe’

Cen­tre-left Renzi has said he is con­fi­dent the bill will pass, though there are sev­eral stick­ing points, in par­tic­u­lar the abil­ity to adopt the bi­o­log­i­cal chil­dren of one’s part­ner. “Italy to­mor­row will be­come a bea­con for Europe. Each child needs a father and a mother, the com­plete deal,” Ja­copo Coghe, head of the Fam­ily Gen­er­a­tion as­so­ci­a­tion, told jour­nal­ists at a pre-rally on Fri­day.

As the hours ticked down to the demo, rights as­so­ci­a­tions pleaded with would-be par­tic­i­pants to change their mind. “It is sta­tis­ti­cally cer­tain that among your chil­dren there are many boys and girls who, even if they’ve never con­fided in you, are gay, les­bian, bi­sex­ual or trans­gen­der,” the Agedo as­so­ci­a­tion of par­ents and friends of LGBT peo­ple said. Beppe Sev­ergnini, pop­u­lar colum­nist for the Cor­riere della Sera, Italy’s best-sell­ing daily, said: “Italy, as we all know, has al­ready de­cided”. The ar­gu­ments against gay civil unions re­call those here against di­vorce 42 years ago, he said. “The an­swer should be the same: no one is obliged to get di­vorced, no one is obliged to get a civil union. But if they want do, why should we stop them?” — AFP LON­DON: A draft EU re­form pack­age to help keep Bri­tain in the Euro­pean Union could be cir­cu­lated to­mor­row fol­low­ing meet­ings be­tween Prime Min­is­ter David Cameron and top EU of­fi­cials. The fol­low­ing are key points of what Reuters has been told by sources close to the ne­go­ti­a­tions could be the pro­posal Euro­pean Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk will send to EU gov­ern­ments af­ter talks over din­ner with Cameron in Lon­don on Sun­day:

The form

Ne­go­tia­tors will work through the week­end to craft a sin­gle doc­u­ment lay­ing out leg­isla­tive and other mea­sures re­spond­ing to Cameron’s Novem­ber de­mands for re­forms so he cam­paigns to keep Bri­tain in the EU in a ref­er­en­dum by the end of next year. De­pend­ing on how Fri­day’s talks in Brus­sels with Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Jean-Claude Juncker have gone, and on the Cameron-Tusk meet­ing, the doc­u­ment could set out in more or less de­tail a clas­sic EU ne­go­ti­at­ing text, in­clud­ing blank spa­ces and al­ter­na­tive word­ings in brack­ets, to be hag­gled over up to and dur­ing a sum­mit chaired by Tusk in Brus­sels on Feb 1819.

Noth­ing is done un­til ev­ery­thing is. A deal, need­ing all 28 na­tional lead­ers’ assent, could pave the way for a ref­er­en­dum as early as June. Im­passe would prob­a­bly mean more talks. The EU sees its pro­pos­als as legally wa­ter­tight, safe from chal­lenges in court and not re­quir­ing amend­ments to treaties now - some­thing hard to pull off quickly across all 28 EU states. On some is­sues, it will of­fer bind­ing guar­an­tees that treaties will be amended later if that is re­quired to en­act pro­pos­als.

Mi­gra­tion

Cameron wants to dis­cour­age other Euro­peans com­ing to Bri­tain by ex­clud­ing them from the tax cred­its, child al­lowances and other non-con­trib­u­tory so­cial ben­e­fits at­tached to low paid Bri­tish jobs for at least four years. With­out chang­ing EU treaties guar­an­tee­ing free move­ment of la­bor and bar­ring na­tional dis­crim­i­na­tion, EU lawyers pro­pose an “emer­gency brake”, lim­it­ing those fun­da­men­tal rights where vi­tal na­tional in­ter­ests or eco­nomic sta­bil­ity are at risk. Leg­is­la­tion would give any state to curb in-work ben­e­fits for up to four years - if agreed to the Euro­pean Coun­cil of fel­low gov­ern­ments. Nor­mally, Coun­cil de­ci­sions are by con­sen­sus - in ef­fect, una­nim­ity - but eas­ier terms might be ne­go­ti­ated. Al­lowances for chil­dren could also be re­duced long term. EU ne­go­tia­tors speak of “in­dex­ing” so that work­ers whose chil­dren live in cheaper states than the par­ent would re­ceive less.

Euro-zone

Cameron wants more le­gal safe­guards for Bri­tain’s ster­ling-based econ­omy and big fi­nan­cial in­dus­try from a risk of the euro zone coun­tries writ­ing EU rules to suit them. The EU pro­poses an­other “emer­gency brake” where Bri­tain could ob­ject in the Coun­cil of all EU min­is­ters. How far Bri­tain may block mea­sures and how far it would need al­lies is un­clear yet. Lon­don and euro zone lead­ers all say Bri­tain should not have a blan­ket veto.

Na­tional sovereignty

Cameron wants as­sur­ances Bri­tain need not hand more power to Brus­sels and to en­hance the say of na­tions in the EU. The EU will be propos­ing a “red card”, let­ting na­tional par­lia­ments act­ing in con­cert block EU leg­is­la­tion. How few leg­is­la­tures could ob­struct how much is still be­ing ne­go­ti­ated. Bri­tain wants it made clear that an EU treaty phrase call­ing for “ever closer union” among peo­ples does not mean more political in­te­gra­tion. The EU will of­fer a bind­ing de­ci­sion by the Euro­pean Coun­cil, echo­ing a re­as­sur­ance it gave in 2014.

Com­pet­i­tive­ness

The least con­tentious area of Cameron’s four re­form “bas­kets”, call­ing for less red tape and more eco­nomic dy­namism has broad back­ing so a set of dec­la­ra­tions will echo EU pol­icy, but with el­e­ments to show Bri­tain Brus­sels is lis­ten­ing. — Reuters

ROME: Fran­cis­can fri­ars hold­ing a plac­ard read­ing “no to the civil unions” take part in the Fam­ily Day rally at the Circo Massimo in cen­tral Rome yes­ter­day. The Fam­ily day was or­ga­nized to protest against a bill to rec­og­nize civil unions, in­clud­ing...

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