Saturday, March 17, 2012

Baby Steps of Progress in Italy

Italy, the birthplace of the Roman Catholic Church, isn't known for its progressive stance on gay rights.  Italy is one of the only European countries that still does not offer some form of legal recognition to same-sex couples.  But the pendulum is starting to swing a bit...

On the 15th of March, 2012, the Italian Supreme Court (Corte Suprema di Cassazione) issued a two-pronged ruling in the most important gay rights case thus far in that country.  The case revolved around an Italian same-sex couple who were legally married outside of Italy, and who sued the state to have their marriage recognized by the Italian government.

The Supreme Court ruled that the government does not, at this point in time, have to recognize same-sex marriage contracted in other countries, which seems like a defeat.  But the second part of the ruling is where it gets good.

In part two, the court ruled that same-sex couples do have a right to a family life; that they must also be able to enjoy the same legal rights as heterosexual couples.  The words were clear and sharp, according to Italian legal analysts.  The Italian Parliament and government must now give an answer and find a solution.  This ruling could, in effect, push the government to address the country's ban on same-sex marriage.

This comes hot on the heels of a lower court ruling in Italy last month, which states that a non-EU citizen who marries his or her Italian same-sex partner, must be granted a residency permit to reside in Italy with their spouse.  The reason for denial previously given was that "gay marriages are not allowed by national legislation."  The judge ruled, however, that such a justification is not valid and serves no state interest.

To top it off, a Catholic Bishop in Sicily took a stand for equality in January and declared that the Italian government needs to recognize same-sex unions.  Yes you read that right:  a Catholic Bishop!  Breaking with the official line of the Vatican, Bishop Paolo Urso said, "When two people, even if they're the same sex, decide to live together, it's important for the state to recognize it."

Given that this is all happening in the Vatican's backyard, I can almost hear Benedict wheezing nervously.


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