Italy Legally Recognises Same-sex Couples

Employment and Social Affairs
After the Italian Chamber of Deputies voted in favour of the civil union bill in a final vote yesterday, same sex couples are legally recognised for the first time in Italy. Italy has become the 27th country in Europe to legalize same-sex couples.

After decades of struggle by gay rights groups, and months of contested political negotiations, the Italian Parliament approved — 372 to 51, with 99 abstentions — the law recognizing civil unions of same-sex couples on Wednesday evening.

LGBT Advocacy groups warmly welcome the new bill and are in anticipation of its imminent signature by Italy’s President, Sergio Mattarella.

Under the new legislation, same-sex couples can enjoy new rights in terms of tax, social security and inheritance. However, as the possibility of second-parent adoption (the so-called “Stepchild Adoption”) were removed from the civil union bill prior to the Senate’s vote on 25 February, the situation of rainbow families in Italy remains overlooked, according to LGBT groups.


A Historic Landmark in the Recognition of Same-sex Couples…

People with rainbow flags gathered to celebrate at the Trevi Fountain in Rome, as this is a historic occasion for a country such as Italy, where traditional family norms have strong roots and the Roman Catholic Church, which opposed the measure for a long time, has a strong hold on society.

Almost 30 years passed since Italian lawmakers first submit a proposal to give legal recognition to civil unions in Italy. A ruling was issued by the European Court of Human Rights last July, stating Italy’s failure to recognize same-sex unions violated the European Convention on Human Rights.

Nevertheless, the Vatican has always opposed steadily legal recognition of same-sex couples, influencing some Italian lawmakers. Even under Pope Francis, who expressed more liberal positions on some social issues, the position of the Vatican has remained unchanged.

The wall erected mostly by the Vatican against civil rights in this country has fallen,” Franco Grillini, a gay-rights advocate and the honorary president of the advocacy group Arcigay, was reported as saying by The New York Time, “so it is a historically and politically important moment.”


… But There Is Still a Long Way to Go

Nevertheless, the law falls short of granting full equality to same-sex couples, have complained the proponents of same-sex unions.

Under the new civil union bill, which establishes the mutual obligation to moral and material assistance and cohabitation, as well as to contribute to common needs, the condition of homosexual couples has undeniably improved. Partners are also entitled to inherit and can claim for a survivor’s pension in case one of them passed away.

However, unlike married couples, no marital fidelity is involved in a civil union, which can be dissolved by the partners directly, without going through divorce. Partners simply need to communicate — even separately — their intent to bring their union to an end. The length of dissolution may be 3 months at maximum.

Adoption of one of the partner’s biological child will not be allowed for same-sex civil unions, since this possibility, facing opposition from centre-right parties and the church, was eventually dropped from the legislation.

While realising the significance of the vote, the European branch of ILGA, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association urges “Italian lawmakers to examine ways to protect rainbow families and their children without delay.

Thus, the expectations of same-sex couples in Italy, who wanted marriage equality as their counterparts in many Western European countries, were disappointed. Furthermore, no recognition of same-sex marriages was established.

Legal recognition for same-sex couples is a great step forward for Italian society – but it cannot be the final step,” points out ILGA-Europe, “the Italian LGBTI community, their families and friends deserve to be fully protected and recognised by their state.

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