"Other forms of cohabitation cannot be put on the same level as a family based on marriage between a man and woman. They cannot be given legal recognition," the bishops said in a statement Tuesday.
According to ANSA, Bishop Giuseppe Betori, head of the bishops' conference, said the legislation would be "superfluous" because existing law already provides adequate guarantees. He said any “gaps or problems can be resolved through modifications of civil law.”
Premier Romano Prodi's center-left had intentions of proposing the bill today, but allies have been unable to come to an agreement. A motion is expected to be passed, extending the deadline for another two weeks.
The law would allow these couples the same legal rights of legal marriage but stop short of legalizing same-sex marriages.
The Udeur Party and Catholics on both sides of the political divide have opposed the legislation from the start, arguing that it would undermine the traditional family based on marriage.
The number of cohabiting couples in Italy has doubled between 1994 and 2003, from 227,000 to 555,000.
.- The Italian Catholic bishops have voiced their opposition to a plan to present legislation in Italian Parliament that would give cohabiting and same-sex couples the same legal rights as married couples.