Catholic organisations in Italy have announced that May 12 will be “Family Day”, featuring a demonstration in Rome against legislation which will could give legal rights to civil unions.

The planned civil unions will be both for heterosexual and homosexual couples, a proposal that has outraged the Catholic Church.

The Family Day manifesto does not specifically mention the laws, but focuses on calls for legislation promoting more traditional families.

“Only in the family founded on the stable union of a man and a woman and opened to a natural, orderly procreation, the offspring are born and raised in a community of love and life from which they can expect a civil, moral and religious education,” reads the event manifesto.

Coincidentally, the rally will be held on the 33rd anniversary of a referendum in which Italians voted for divorce to be legalised. The rally will take place in Rome’s central San Giovanni Square.

Two Catholic members of the government will be taking part in the rally, justice minister Clemente Mastella and public education minister Giuseppe Fioroni, along with members of the conservative opposition.

The controversial proposed law has divided the already fractious nine-party coalition government, which encompasses a range of political views, from Communists to Catholic centrists.

Pope Benedict XVI and the Italian Bishop’s Conference (CEI) have repeatedly dismissed civil unions. They have told Catholic lawmakers that if they vote on the bill, they will be denied the right to take communion.

Despite what has previously been said, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco has asserted that the members of the CEI will not be demonstrating on May 12.

However, the group does strongly endorse the event.

Bagnasco told AKI: “This is an initiative born from the heart of the people and of organisations not belonging to the Church which naturally has the support and approval of the bishops and pastors.”

Five gay groups have also announced a demonstration on May 12, called “We are a family too.” They will be marching for more social services for children and the elderly.