1 of 2
Antonio Calanni, Associated Press
People gather during a gay rights demonstration prior to a vote at the Italian parliament to change laws on recognition of rights for same-sex couples, in downtown Milan, Italy, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2016. Italian premier Matteo Renzi has said that the government might considering resorting to a confidence vote to hasten approval of the law that will allow civil unions, but not marriage, for gay couples.

ROME — Bowing to fierce opposition, Italy's Premier Matteo Renzi will drop a proposed measure that would have let gays adopt the biological children of their partners.

A Democratic Party official, Lorenzo Guerini, said party senators at an assembly Tuesday decided it was best to remove the heavily-contested adoption language from the proposed law to allow civil unions, but not marriage, for homosexual couples.

Such unions would carry benefits like receiving deceased partners' pensions.

Pro-Vatican lawmakers in Renzi's party as well as a key coalition center-right partner had vowed to vote against the bill unless the adoption provision was jettisoned.

"Between 'everything never' and 'nothing today,' it's better to do a little piece now" of the family law reforms, Renzi said in a radio interview ahead of the Democrats' discussion on strategy to overcome an impasse in the Senate.

Renzi said he hoped the Senate would approve the revamped bill later this week. The bill also needs to pass in the lower Chamber of Deputies.

The premier had said earlier he might resort to a confidence vote to close ranks in his squabbling coalition and hasten the bill's passage. But Renzi has just started his third year in office and losing a confidence vote in Parliament would force his resignation.

Pope Francis, while insisting that marriage can only be between a man and the woman, has publicly refused to be drawn into the debate over the bill to give gay couples some rights. Catholic teaching holds that homosexual activity is sinful.

But the Vatican's No. 2 official, Cardinal Piero Parolin, expressed approval Tuesday that the adoption provision won't be part of the civil unions bill.

"It seems to me to be the correct hypothesis," the Italian news agency ANSA quoted the cardinal as saying at an annual Italian-Vatican reception attended by Renzi.

Democrats have promised that the question of whether homosexuals can adopt the biological children of their partners would be taken up in a separate overhaul of Italy's adoption laws.

Frances D'Emilio is on Twitter at www.twitter.com/fdemilio