Rome votes to recognise gay civil unions

Register to include both hetrosexual and same-sex couples

Rome city council has approved the establishment of a civil union register which will automatically include same-sex marriages contracted abroad.

The controversial amendment was made on 28 January, amid cheers and protests, and is the latest move in Italy's divisive gay marriage debate.

The legislation was backed by the Partito Democratico (PD) mayor of Rome Ignazio Marino and his centre-left coalition, the anti-establishment Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S) and Sinistra Ecologia Libertà (SEL) but was opposed by centre-right parties Nuovo Centrodestra (NCD), Forza Italia (FI) and Fratelli d'Italia (FdI).

Marino, who supports legalising gay marriage, described the measure as an "historic milestone" and "an act of civility and respect of people."

In a symbolic move last October Marino and several other Italian mayors defied interior minister Angelino Alfano by registering a number of foreign gay marriages. Alfano had declared that mayors do not have the authority to register gay marriages, which under Italian law are not recognised.