Italy will push ahead with plans to give unmarried and gay couples rights, the country’s Prime Minister has announced.

Romano Prodi came to power in April promising civil partnership style laws for the gay community as well as heterosexual cohabiting couples.

Equal Opportunities Minister Barbara Pollastrini said Mr Prodi wants to discuss a “wise and serious” law, the Xinhua news agency reports.

It comes after Padua city council outraged the Vatican by allowing gay and lesbian couples to register their ‘family.’ The law also applies to unmarried heterosexual couples.

In Italy, a “certification of family” is required for various minor legal procedures, such as officially taking time off work to care for a sick relative or being placed on waiting lists for council houses.

Padua, the setting for Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, is the first city to extend certification to gay men and lesbians.

The reaction from Rome was quick and brutal. An editorial in L’Osservatore Romano, an official Vatican newspaper, branded the city councillors responsible as hypocrites.