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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 16, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 11
Gay couples have a right to family life, Italian Supreme Court says
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Gay couples have a right to family life, Italian Supreme Court says

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

In a ruling that may open the way for recognition of same-sex relationships in Italy, the country's Supreme Court said on March 15 that Gay couples have a 'right to a family life.'

The court's ruling came in the case of a Gay Italian couple who married legally outside Italy, and then sued to have their marriage recognized under Italian law in the same way that opposite-sex marriages performed outside the country would be recognized.

The court rejected their suit, saying current law made it illegal to recognize same-sex marriages in Italy, but adding that the 'social context in Europe has changed significantly.'

The court did not make clear how far they mean the concept of 'family life' to extend.

Under current Italian law, same-sex couples have no right to share property, social security benefits, or pensions. Some provincial governments led by leftist parties have passed local civil union laws, but the right-wing coalition that controls the national government opposes recognition of same-sex couples.

In the wake of the court ruling, Gay rights activists challenged the national government to pass legislation on same-sex relationships.

'Today's Supreme Court judgment is important,' said Fabrizio Marrazzo, spokesperson for the activist group Gay Center.

'The ruling says that Gay couples must also enjoy the same legal rights as any heterosexual couple. The words are clear and sharp. Parliament and the government must give an answer.'

Although Rome is the center of the Catholic Church, Italy's civil government has been largely anti-clerical since the country was unified in 1860. It was not until the post-World War II period that pro-Catholic parties came to control Italian politics.

Consequently, same-sex sexual relations have always been legal in Naples and Sicily, and were legalized in the country as a whole in 1887.

Gay people have always been able to serve openly in the Italian army.

In 2003 Italy banned discrimination in employment on the basis of sexual orientation in conformity with E.U. directives.

Sexual reassignment surgery is legal, but unlike sexual orientation, gender identity and expression are not protected.

To the horror of Catholic authorities, Italy legalized divorce in 1971 and abortion in 1978.

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