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Italy Recognizes Gay Unions

FILE - People are seen at a gay rights rally prior to a vote at the Italian parliament to change laws on recognition of rights for same-sex couples, in downtown Milan, Italy, Feb. 21, 2016.

Italy joined the rest of the European Union on Wednesday and granted legal recognition to gay civil unions, overcoming fierce opposition from the powerful Catholic Church.

The vote in the lower house of parliament was 372 to 51, with 99 abstentions. The senate gave its approval in February.

Italy was the last of the 28 EU members to recognize gay unions, but gay marriage is still banned in the country.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said on his Facebook page that Wednesday was "a day of celebration for many people. We are writing another important page of the Italy we want."

Same-sex couples in Italy will now have almost all the same legal and civil rights as married couples.

While gay rights activists are celebrating, they say they are disappointed that the law did not include the right to adopt children.

The government pulled that provision from the bill to ensure its passage.