Protests took place in Rome, Milan and dozens of other cities across Italy. They also occurred in London, Berlin, Vienna and other cities in Europe and the U.S. that include Boston.
Arcigay, an Italian LGBT advocacy group that organized the protests, in a press release said that a million people took part in them.
“In every corner of our country a single cry rose up, which is the voice of a country that does not want to fall behind,” said Arcigay Secretary Gabriele Piazzoni.
Imma Battaglia, an Italian LGBT rights advocate, was among those who spoke at a protest in Rome.
“Yes to our love; no to discrimination,” said Battaglia.
Battaglia told the Washington Blade on Sunday that the demonstration was “an enormous success.”
“The protest went very well,” she said.
The protests took place against a debate on a civil unions bill that is scheduled to take place on Thursday in the Italian Senate.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s government supports the measure, which would also extend second-parent adoption rights to same-sex couples.
The Associated Press on Saturday reported that opponents have introduced more than 6,000 amendments to the proposal in an attempt to block it. One such amendment would punish any couple who uses a surrogate mother outside of Italy to have a child with a fine of up to one million euros ($1,079,850) and up to two years in prison.
“This is indecent,” said Piazzoni, according to Agence-France Presse. “A law intended to recognize rights cannot be transformed into a criminalizing one that talks about prison.”
Country has not ‘sufficiently’ recognized same-sex couples
Gays and lesbians in Italy lack many of the basic legal protections that exist in other countries in Western Europe.
Rome and more than 100 other Italian cities and municipalities have created largely symbolic civil union registries.
The Court of Cassation, which is the country’s highest court, in 2015 ruled same-sex couples do not have the right to marry under the Italian constitution. It nevertheless said gays and lesbians in Italy should have the same rights as unmarried couples.
The European Court of Human Rights last July ruled same-sex couples in Italy face human rights violations because the country has not “sufficiently” recognized them.
“The law on civil unions barely reaches the minimum threshold of acceptability,” Andrea Miluzzo, director of LGBT News Italia, told the Blade. “It foresees the stepchild adoption, but adoption; a civil partnership, but not civil marriage.”
“It is really the minimum wage before moving outrage,” he added.