Rome’s Circus Maximus was the site of a massive rally against a proposed law which would allow same-sex unions across the country of Italy.
Hundreds of thousands are estimated to have gathered for ‘Family Day’ at the historic site in the capital city a week ahead of a vote which could allow same-sex couples to legally enter into civil unions.
If passed, the legislation would grant same-sex couples - as well as non-married couples of the opposite sex - the same legal rights as married couples of the opposite sex.
Among the legal allowances would be the adoption of a child by the same-sex partner of his or her parent.
To date, Italy offers no legal rights to same-sex couples.
"Italy is one of the few western countries that is still resisting this deviation," said Family Day organizer Massimo Gandolfini in an interview with Sky Tg24. Most European countries allow for legalized same-sex unions in some form.
At a speech during the Family Day rally, Gandolfini told the crowds: "Without limits, our society will go mad!" the AP reports.
Speakers addressed the throngs of crowds peacefully demonstrating with banners and signs, many of which called for the protection of a child’s right to a mother and a father.
The proposed bill to give legal rights to same-sex partnerships was submitted to parliament Oct. 7, 2015.
Italy’s current prime minister, Matteo Renzi, has long expressed his intention to establish legal recognition of same-sex unions.
Saturday’s event comes nearly a decade after the 2007 Family Day contributed to the demise of another civil union bill under Romano Prodi’s government.
Archbishop Giancarlo Maria Bregantini of Campobasso-Boiano told CNA’s Italian edition he came with members of his diocese.
The message of the gathering is that a family, consisting of a man and a woman, “is so deeply rooted in the Italian people, which has finally been awakened by a group of courageous lay persons,” the archbishop said.
“These values do not have ideology, but they have the beauty of saying that every child needs a father and a mother.”
Archbishop Bregantini especially lauded the contributions made by the “brave” lay men and women to the movement. The demonstrations at Circus Maximus are indicative of a renewal in society, he added.
“I am very happy to see this reality of enthusiasm which means that Italy is awakening. Europe needs these things: trust in the future, in children, in tomorrow.”
Earlier in the day, the Anonymous group’s Italian branch hacked into the official website for Family Day 2016 to display a graphic, reading: “Stop omophobia (homophobia): Love is Love.” As of press time, the site was under maintenance.
The Senate is expected to hold its final vote on the bill to grant legal status to same-sex couples in mid-February.