The Italian senate is set to begin debating on Thursday whether same-sex marriage should be legalised.

Left-of-centre Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, supports the bill and has gained enough support for it to pass. However, the proposed legislation has strong opponents in the Catholic Church, Catholic organisations and conservative members of Italian parliament, who point to the costs of extending pension rights and tax breaks. Economists and tourism professionals have argued that the legalisation of gay marriage would bring more tourism to the slow economy.

An American LGBT rights advocate has even gone so far as to warn that the country will face serious economic repercussions if it fails to go ahead with the bill.

Justin Nelson, co-founder of the US-based National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) told the Guardian: “I think the eyes of the world, especially the LGBT world, are squarely on Italy now. It is not only a question of tourists [boycotting Italy] if it fails but a business question. For a country with a growing economy to have such a glaring omission will undoubtedly have negative economic impacts.”

Italy is the only in western Europe that doesn’t recognise civil unions or gay marriage in any form.

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