Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on Friday criticized the Roman Catholic Church's opposition to a proposed gay-inclusive civil unions law.

The Senate is expected to vote on the legislation this week.

On Thursday, the head of the Italian bishops' conference, Angelo Bagnasco, called on the chamber to allow a secret ballot on the civil unions bill, arguing that this would allow lawmakers to vote with their conscience.

“Parliament decides whether or not to allow secret votes … not the head of the bishops' conference,” Renzi is quoted by Reuters as saying on RAI state radio.

“What is there to fear from two people who love each other? Why not give these rights to two people who love each other? The majority of the country is clearly in favor of it,” he added.

Pollsters have found that a majority (up to 70%) of Italians support some form of legal recognition for gay couples.

Italy is the only major Western country that offers gay couples no recognition.

(Related: Pope Francis reiterates church's opposition to gay marriage as Italy debates civil unions.)