The LGBT community in the ancient city of Rome gathered in the streets on Saturday to dance, party, and demand their rights.

Ten of thousands of people, among them leading politicians, marched from Rome’s Saint Paul’s Gate to the Basilica of Saint John Lateran, the site of last month’s Roman Catholic church-sanctioned anti-gay “family” rally.

“We are heteros, gays, lesbians and bisexual and we want Romano Prodi to give the same rights to all.

Where are all the promises the government made? Evaporated into nothingness?” a drag queen told AP.

In February the Italian government agreed to bring forward legislation that will grant legal recognition for gay and lesbian couples for the first time.

The decision was criticised on all sides.

Gay campaigners complained that the proposed new “civil pacts of solidarity” are a watered down version of what the coalition government had promised at last year’s election.

Catholic MPs denounced the new bill as an attack on marriage.

Prime Minister Romano Prodi’s nine-party coalition spent months tussling over the new bill, with rumours the government could collapse over the issue.

In the end the Cabinet unanimously approved the new legislation, which also grants rights to unmarried heterosexual couples. One cabinet minister boycotted the meeting.

Couples will be able to formally register with their local authority, and will have rights over property and inheritance.

They will also have the right to visit their partner in hospital.

The decision was a clear defeat for the Vatican and yet another indication of their waning power in Italy.

Pope Benedict and many bishops have publicly decried the proposed “civil pacts” as a form of “pseudo marriage” that will undermine traditional family life.

The country is still divided over whether gay and unmarried couples should be granted rights.

A recent poll found that 51% opposed legal recognition for gay couples with 47% in favour.