Opponents of same-sex unions and gay adoption stage major Rome rally
By Isla Binnie and Crispian Balmer
ROME (Reuters) - Hundreds of thousands of Italians staged a mass rally in Rome's Circus Maximus on Saturday to urge the government to drop legislation that offers homosexual couples legal recognition and limited adoption rights.
The much-contested bill was presented to parliament last week and is due to be voted on in February, but the government itself is deeply divided over the issue and opponents are hopeful they can sink it, as they have done it the past.
Trains and buses ferried in protesters from around Italy to take part in the event, staged in Ancient Rome's famed chariot racing stadium. A group of black-clad Roman Catholic priests danced the conga, while children rushed around the grassy arena.
"We want the whole law to be withdrawn, no ifs and no buts," said one of the organizers, Simone Pillon, sporting a red bow tie. He took particular offense at a clause in the law which would let gays adopt the biological children of their partner.
Critics say this would encourage surrogacy, which is outlawed in Italy. "We cannot let children pay for the desires or caprices of adults. Children need to have a father and a mother," said Pillon.
Showing how polarized the nation is, Saturday's rally came a week after thousands of people took to the streets of Italy to demand that the "civil union" bill, which relates to both homosexual and heterosexual couples, be approved.
Organizers said two million people joined the Circus Maximus rally. Police did not give any crowd estimates, but city authorities have said the arena can hold some 350,000.