Tuesday

26th Mar 2019

Focus

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

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join 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.

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.

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.

News in Brief

  1. European Parliament votes on reform of copyright
  2. New French-German parliament meets for first time
  3. EU parliament reduces polling ahead of elections
  4. UK parliament votes to take control of Brexit process
  5. EU publishes no-deal Brexit contingency plans
  6. EU urges Israel and Gaza to re-establish calm
  7. May admits 'not sufficient support' for third Brexit vote
  8. Orban vows more EU 'information campaigns'

Opinion

The dangers of resurgent nationalism in Greece

Virulent nationalism in Greece has been stirred up in the context of austerity and renewed negotiations with Macedonia. Recent attempts by the government to address the inequalities suffered by LGBT persons have also been met with a reactionary backlash.

Supported by

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. France takes Chinese billions despite EU concerns
  2. Europe before the elections - heading back to the past?
  3. Romania presidency shatters EU line on Jerusalem
  4. The Spitzen process - a coup that was never accepted
  5. Russia and money laundering in Europe
  6. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  7. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  8. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us