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Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2007 at 11:42 AM
Members of gay and lesbian associations hold flowers as they demonstrate on St. Peter's square at the Vatican January 13, 2007 in Rome. The groups, which converged on the square in memory of an activist who killed himself there nine years ago, demonstrated against Pope Benedict XVI's latest speech on PACS, Italy's proposed social agreement for unmarried couples.
VATICAN CITY - Some 200 people gathered in Saint Peter's Square to protest the Vatican's opposition to civil unions, which would legally recognize unmarried couples, both gay and straight.
"More self-determination, less Vatican" declared a banner at the demonstration, which was also held like every year to remember the gay Sicilian poet, Alfredo Ormando, who 10 years ago burnt himself to death in the Vatican's square to protest what he called the Catholic Church's "homophobia."
Granting legal status to gay couples has been a subject of dispute not only between right and left in Italy but also within Prime Minister Romano Prodi's Union coalition, which promised in its election manifesto to grant legal recognition to common law partnerships.
The Italian parliament has begun debating the legislation on civil unions, which would apply to all unmarried couples without reference to their sexual orientation, granting them inheritance rights, joint medical insurance and visiting rights in prisons and hospitals, among others.
The protestors claimed that Church officials were interfering with the parliamentary debate.
"Parliament should discuss the issue in complete freedom, without pressure from the Vatican, and decide independently like the parliament of any sovereign secular state," said Franco Grillini, founder of the group Arcigay.
Just on Thursday, Pope Benedict XVI had reaffirmed before Rome's mayor his opposition to recognizing civil unions, declaring that they were "dangerous" for the family and "counter-productive."
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