Italy's Senate has approved a landmark bill recognising same-sex civil unions but only after removing a provision that would have allowed gay adoption, much to the disappointment of gay rights activists.
A final vote on the full text of the draft law -- which campaign groups have criticised as watered-down -- is seen as a formality and is expected within two months.
Italy is the only major European country to have so far given no legal rights to same-sex couples.
Prime Minister Matteo Renzi put his government on the line for the bill, resorting to a confidence vote yesterday in the Senate to push through the amended text.
Renzi had also bowed to Catholic pressure with the so-called "super amendment", which removes from the original text rights for same-sex pairs to adopt their partner's children.
A requirement that couples be faithful was also dropped from the revised text.
It was approved by 173 votes to 71 against.
Renzi's centre-left Democratic Party failed to push through a more robust version of the bill last week, after the opposition Five Star Movement (M5S) withdrew its support at the last minute.
While diluted, the text maintains provisions including the obligation to mutual moral and material support, the right to a residence permit for foreign partners and to take a same-sex partner's name.
The amended draft does not close the door on individuals in same-sex couples making case-by-case adoption requests, with a handful having already been approved by some courts in the name of the child's best interest.
The bill now needs to go before a vote in the lower house, where Renzi has a more comfortable majority, and should in theory be fully approved within two months.
"The accord on civil unions is a historic event for Italy," Renzi wrote on Twitter Wednesday.
Interior Minister Angelino Alfano told reporters the removal of the provision for gay adoption was a "victory for common sense".
"We have given a great gift to Italy by preventing two people of the same sex from having a child, just as nature does," he said.
"We are preventing a revolution against nature."
Gay rights groups have voiced anger, on the streets and on social media, saying the bill has been diluted too much.
"We haven't waited 30 years for this," said a joint statement yesterday by some 30 groups, vowing to express their "anger.