A bill to give same-sex couples marriage rights has been rejected in Ireland, while the collapse of Italy’s government may end attempts to legalise same-sex unions.

The Irish Parliament voted overwhelmingly against the bill, introduced by a Labour Party PM, which aimed to give gay couples the same rights as heterosexual couples.

According to the government, the bill – which was based on Britain’s civil partnership legislation -was unconstitutional because it equated gay and lesbian unions with marriage.

The Irish constitution demands the protection of marriage, but does not define it as being solely between a man and woman. The government has set up a committee to recommend ways of giving lesbian and gay couples some rights, but it has not yet submitted its findings.

Hopes that Italy would legalise same-sex unions have been dashed after the left-leaning fragile coalition government of Prime Minister Romano Prodi collapsed this week.

Prodi’s cabinet had approved a bill granted civil partnership rights to same sex couples – which has been vocally opposed by the Vatican – and had said that it would work to pass it in the legislature.

Prodi resigned as Prime Minister on Wednesday after his nine-month-old government was unable to pass a measure – on Italy’s military involvement in Afghanistan – in the Senate by two votes.

Italy’s president Giorgio Napolitano is in talks with politicians in an attempt to form another coalition.

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