The Trevi fountain in Rome was lit up in rainbow colors Wednesday night.
That’s because the Italian parliament passed a bill approving civil unions for gay couples.
Until now, Italy had been the last major Western democracy not to legally recognize same-sex partnerships of any sort.
“We’ve been waiting for 30 years to have such a law,” said Vladimir Luxuria, a transgender politician and activist who still goes by her birth name but identifies as a woman.
“It’s time for celebration, not only for the LBGT community, but also for all the people who believe in freedom, civilization and love.”
“Now I feel more proud to be Italian,” she added.
Luxuria, who was the first openly transgender member of Parliament in Europe, campaigned on the issue during her term in office. She says she struggled to make progress in the face of opposition from the Roman Catholic Church, which is dominant in Italy.
“I tried so hard. I felt like a very weak person, because I understood that the Vatican was very influential in trying to prevent any law about civil unions and civil rights,” she said.
“I knew that even though the politicians would have had such a law, there was a kind of diktat from the Vatican. Now I think, at last, even the Vatican have understood that it was high time to have such a law in Italy.”
Officially, the Catholic Church has opposed the bill, and several prominent figures have spoken out against the news. Archbishop Bruno Forte, who served as special secretary of the Synod of Bishops on the Family, called the decision “an impoverishment of democratic life on a question that can have an enormous impact on the future of society.”
Speaking to La Repubblica, Archbishop Michele Pennisi described the new law as “creeping fascism.”
The version of the bill that was passed Wednesday has been seen by some as a compromise. Earlier drafts included provisions on same-sex parental adoption, which were later removed.
And, even after this bill is enacted, gay couples will still not be able to get married in Italy.
But Luxuria remains positive.
“Our aim is, of course, equal marriage. That is our final destination. But this is an important step,” she said. “Our fight towards full equality has just begun.”
By Joshua Kelly, PRI’s The World
This article is syndicated from PRI’s The World.