Italy backs same-sex unions in parliament vote
Italy has joined the rest of Europe in giving some legal rights to gay couples.
The lower Chamber of Deputies voted 372-51 with 99 abstentions to approve legislation already passed in February by the Senate. Earlier, the chamber approved a confidence motion tied to the law.
Gay rights activists hailed the vote as historic, given that Italy was the last of the European Union's 28 nations to grant legal recognition to civil unions. But they voiced disappointment that the government had sacrificed a provision to allow gay adoption to ensure passage.
The legislation grants same-sex couples many of the same rights as married couples like the possibility of having the same last name, inheritance rights, hospital visitation rights and medical decision-making rights. But it stops short of authorising gay marriage.
The Vatican maintains that marriage is a lifelong bond between man and woman.
Italy's premier Matteo Renzi praised the vote as "writing another important page for the Italy that we love".
Mr Renzi wrote on Facebook: "Today is a day of celebration for so many. For those who finally feel recognised."
Italy's leading Catholic bishop, Monsignor Nunzio Galantino, had criticised the government's decision to put the bill to a confidence vote to ensure passage, saying it was a "loss for everyone".
Mr Renzi replied that he did so to avoid "any more delays after years of failed attempts".
Gabriele Piazzoni, national secretary for gay rights group Arcigay, said: "It is lacking full equality, which is what we were asking for. But still, this is a crucial moment."