Saturday

2nd Jul 2022

Italy changes EU gay rights map

  • Italy backs same-sex unions (Photo: Federico Moroni)

Italy’s decision to allow same-sex unions has deleted the last zone of intolerance against homosexuality from western Europe.

MPs in Rome on Wednesday (11 May) voted by 372 to 51 with 99 abstentions to pass a bill that gives gay couples most of the same rights as straight ones.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Ilga-Europe map (Photo: Ilga-Europe)

Gay couples will now be able to take each other’s names, inherit their partner’s estate and pension and claim alimony. They will also have full access to their partners in hospitals and prisons and the right to apply for social housing.

They will not be able to automatically adopt their partner’s biological children, but judges can grant adoption on a case by case basis.

The result was greeted by applause in parliament and by people waving rainbow flags, a symbol of the gay rights movement, at Rome’s Trevi fountain.

“The wall erected mostly by the Vatican against civil rights in this country has fallen, so it is a historically and politically important moment,” Franco Grillini, the head of Italian NGO Arcigay, told press.

Arcigay’s Gabriele Piazzoni said: “The glass is half full”.

“The text contains the recognition and protection many gays and lesbians have been waiting for all their lives ... [but] everything this law has failed to guarantee leaves a bitter taste”.

The change ends Italy’s status as the only large, western democracy that had not recognised same-sex unions.

From red to green

Its old status was on show in a map published earlier this week by Ilga-Europe, a Brussels-based NGO, that showed Italy as the only “red” country among the older EU states.

The red colour meant that it fell below Ilga-Europe’s 25 percent benchmark in terms of legal protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) people.

The only other red EU states were Poland, Latvia and Lithuania. Russia (7%) and Turkey (7%) were the least liberal.

Malta - a staunchly Roman Catholic country - got the top mark on 88 percent. That was reflected on Ilga-Europe’s map by the colour green. France, Germany, Spain and the UK were also green.

Germany, this week, became greener when it annulled old convictions of men who had been persecuted under anti-gay laws that were in force between 1946 and 1969.

Commenting on the state of affairs, Evelyn Paradis, Ilga-Europe’s director, said in Copenhagen on Tuesday: “Contrary to popular belief, LGBTI equality is far from being a done deal in Europe”.

The NGO’s Joyce Hamilton said “regression is all too possible” due to “those voices who are trying to undermine the equality gains made by the LGBTI movement.”

In Italy, conservative voices included the Roman Catholic church, the New Centre Right party in the ruling coalition, individual ministers and several opposition parties.

'Attack on the family'

Nunzio Galantino, a Vatican spokesman, told Vatican radio after the vote that government policy should enshrine the “importance of the family consisting of father, mother and children.”

Michele Pennisi, an archbishop in Sicily, told the La Repubblica daily: “They [MPs] are not taking into account that a large part of the country does not want this law. I think this way of acting is a form of creeping fascism”.

Politicians from the far-right Northern League party said they want a referendum to repeal the bill. The party’s Massimiliano Fedriga called the law "a direct attack on the family".

But opposition was less fierce than 10 years ago, when mass protests derailed a similar bill put forward by the then PM Romano Prodi and which contributed to his fall from power.

The current PM, 41 year-old Matteo Renzi, had also tied his fate to the reform by calling a vote of confidence on the bill prior to its adoption. He won the confidence vote, also on Wednesday, by 369 to 193.

"Today is a day of celebration in which Italy has taken a step forward”, he told Italian radio.

He said on Facebook prior to the vote: “We are writing another important page of the Italy we want ... It was no longer acceptable to have any more delays after years of failed attempts.”

Slovenia rejects gay marriage law

Almost two-thirds of people rejected a law on gay marriage in Slovenia’s referendum on Sunday, highlighting an east-west EU cultural divide.

Opinion

Pride 2016: Let's not turn back time

EU politicians should attend gay Pride marches to stop illiberal forces in the EU from turning back the clock on basic civil liberties, such as the freedom to assembly.

Interview

Hate speech costs lives, EU warns

Hate speech, whether homophobic or islamophobic, can prompt violent crime, justice commissioner Vera Jourova has warned in the wake of the Orlando and Jo Cox killings.

Does Italy need €14bn of EU budget waivers?

The EU Commission has agreed to relax Italy’s deficit targets. That could help Renzi ahead of this week's local elections and in a later referendum on constitutional reforms.

Opinion

How industry watered-down new EU supply chain rules

The Commission fell hook, line, and sinker for the arguments of big business on the corporate due diligence directive — conflating rules and regulations with so-called 'red tape' and rebranding regulations as 'burdens' on business which should be scrapped.

Podcast

Against white feminism: European edition

Author Rafia Zakaria turned the feminist world upside down with her bestselling book Against White Feminism. She talks with the Brussels-based journalist Shada Islam about the prevalence of white feminist thinking in Europe — particularly France.

News in Brief

  1. EU Parliament 'photographs protesting interpreters'
  2. Poland still failing to meet EU judicial criteria
  3. Report: Polish president fishing for UN job
  4. Auditors raise alarm on EU Commission use of consultants
  5. Kaliningrad talks needed with Russia, says Polish PM
  6. Report: EU to curb state-backed foreign takeovers
  7. EU announces trade deal with New Zealand
  8. Russia threatens Norway over goods transit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  4. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  6. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022

Latest News

  1. Nato's Madrid summit — key takeaways
  2. Czech presidency to fortify EU embrace of Ukraine
  3. Covid-profiting super rich should fight hunger, says UN food chief
  4. EU pollution and cancer — it doesn't have to be this way
  5. Israel smeared Palestinian activists, EU admits
  6. MEPs boycott awards over controversial sponsorship
  7. If Russia collapses — which states will break away?
  8. EU Parliament interpreters stage strike

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us