Pope Francis sends mixed signals on civil unions for gay couples

(Crux) Last weekend, tens of thousands of Italians took to at least 100 piazzas up and down the country to demonstrate their support for a measure currently before the Italian parliament, and backed by the governing center-left majority, to provide civil unions for same-sex couples along with full adoption rights.

On Saturday, another wave of demonstrators is expected to flood Rome’s Circus Maximus to oppose that measure, in a rally known as Family Day. It was originally set for the square outside St. John Lateran, for centuries the seat of the papacy, but organizers say they were forced to relocate due to the high number of people planning to take part.

The event is expected to be so big that the Italian train company is offering a 30 percent discount to people traveling to Rome using the code “Family30”, which is standard practice for large national happenings. When backers of the civil unions bill protested in this case, the company apologized but did not withdraw the discount.

The first parliamentary vote on the proposal, known as the Cirinnà bill for the lawmaker who authored it, Monica Cirinnà of the Democratic Party, is set for Thursday. Backers believe they have enough support to pass it, although since parties have indicated that members are free to vote their consciences, hard counts are illusive.

This is Italy, so from the beginning of the ferment, one question above all has loomed over the debate: “Where does Pope Francis stand?”

Early on, it seemed plausible Francis might just sit this one out. [More]

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Crux