Like so many other gay couples, Lubos and I met on the Internet. The hope, as always, is that you’ll find your Prince Charming, but, after a bit of online chat, you more often than not just end up having sex and then never seeing each other again.
He had taken a look at my profile without leaving a comment, but I liked the smile on this handsome hunk of a man, so I wrote to him. Right from his first reply, I knew I was dealing with a person of values who knew how to bring out the values in me, a man who expressed himself in a creative — albeit perfectly understandable — sort of Italian and who knew how to make me smile, laugh, and think positive. Later, he confessed that he’d gone to see how far Trieste was from Passo Costalunga, where he was living at the time, to see what sort of risk he was facing. More than 300 km? OK, we can talk. Seeing as how it was far enough to keep this new acquaintance from doing any harm, he decided to pursue things further.
Lubos was born in Slovakia under the Soviet regime and grew up without ever having heard the word “homosexuality”. Homosexuals didn’t exist, so there was no need for a word to categorize them. He had always just blamed his own brand of folly — being out of the ordinary and having an odd way of loving both men and women — on the fact that he was an Aquarius. He thought the same sort of thing when we realized he was “in love” with his math teacher, thinking it was just the subject matter he liked so much it felt like love.
So, like many of his peers, at 18 he was already married (since it was normal at that time to marry by the age of 25 to avoid higher taxes) and soon after was expecting his first child, Filip. The following year, Martina arrived, too. Everything between Katarina and Lubos was going fine, but Lubos now knew he wasn’t just crazy or a little off; most likely, he was gay. Out of love and respect for Katarina, he tried to resist and suppress his true nature, but it didn’t last long. Curiosity was too much for him. He started experimenting with the occasional encounter, but at the same time he wanted to remain in the home he and Katarina had built, and he continued to believe in their life plans together. Then came another daughter, Veronika, and soon after Lubos found himself at a crossroads. I can’t pretend with the people I love anymore, so I have just two options: kill myself or come out of the closet.
I , Corrado, have lived quite a different life. My parents outed me after snooping in my diary when I was 13. Their immediate reaction was to ask if I wanted to see a doctor (a question that stuck with me for a long time), followed by ten years of silence on the subject until the day I brought home my first real boyfriend. My parents had always been indulgent and gay friendly — although their silence spoke louder than words — but then old age brought out all their resistance to my being out of the closet. (“So who exactly can see your Facebook? You know, how many people can see what you write and how you live? What good is it? Can’t you do without it? Does the whole world need to know your business?”)
Then I went to Bolzano for a dance program and I met Lubos, which was really why I went so far for a dance course in the first place. He was like a giant with deep, piercing — but kind — eyes. He was super nervous and wearing a white shirt and dark pants, as if we was going to some sort of informal business meeting. I was wild, like always. A little crazy.
We’ve been together ever since. Gift after gift, conquest after conquest, test after test (oh, how many times I’ve tested the poor guy!), surprise after surprise, promise after promise. Eight months later, Lubos moved to Trieste and we moved in together (after all the time I’d kept saying, “No. You at your place and me at mine.”).
It was February 11, 2014, when I came home to find him uncharacteristically dressed — and not in his comfy flannel pajamas — the table set, complete with a silk tablecloth, an awesome dinner, and a tiny, but obviously expensive gift on the table. As I unwraped it, I heard his thundering voice say, “Will you marry me?”
I said yes, and four minutes later our Facebook post had 307 likes and 174 comments.
Anybody can do just one thing at a time, but we wanted, and were able, to do more. So we started looking to buy a house (“If we get married, we should stop paying rent and start building something to pass on to our kids,” said the guy who hadn’t even wanted to move in together), planning our summer vacation, and organizing our trip to New York, where we were to make our dream come true.
Yep. New York, the freedom capital of the world.
It was an amazing trip. Since we couldn’t afford to pay for anyone other than Lubos’ two eldest children, we just told a few of our friends that we’d be leaving on January 9, 2015, and would be getting married on the 15th and that they were all welcome to join us. In the end, fifteen of us left on the 9th, and we were joined later in New York by five other friends.
We stayed in a 2,150-square-foot apartment for a vacation that felt like we were reliving a high-school class trip, and it will remain in our hearts and minds for a long, long time. On the next-to-last day, after a visit to the Manhattan Marriage Bureau, we decided to take a ferry to Staten Island in search of a less chaotic, more romantic spot, and we got lucky. Ours was the only wedding that afternoon, so we had a wonderful, black officiant, Edison Stewart, all to ourselves.
I remember him asking, in his big, booming voice, whether we understood English and what it was we were doing, but I only truly understood what was happening when Edison asked, “Corrado, do you take Lubos to be your spouse to live together in marriage? Do you promise to love him, comfort him, honor and keep him for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health and, forsaking all others, be faithful only to him so long as you both shall live?”
It was in that moment that I understood I would be legally bound to take care of Lubos and that I was swearing as much in front of witnesses, in front of my friends, and in front of an officer of the City Clerk. “I do,” I whispered, almost inaudibly, as my throat closed up and one eye — just one! — got all teary. Typical me! Lubos, though, was sobbing like a little crybaby. And so it was that we joined in marriage, till death do us part.
“Not in Italy”. A group of friends — family by choice — followed Corrado and Lubos to New York, where there dream was to come true. (A webdoc by Giordano Bianchi and Martina Marafato, 14 min.)
As soon as we were back in Italy, Miryam, the Cabinet Chief to the mayor of Trieste, Roberto Cosolini, called to ask if we were still interested in having the marriage deed recorded. We thought about it again, but we’d already talked it over. “Yes, Miryam, let’s go forward with it.” We’re adults — free and in a city where tolerance is high — and we have a huge network of friends and supporters, so if we don’t do something to help those who can’t help themselves, who will?
In Italy, homosexual couples lack even the most basic of rights. Because the Italian government doesn’t recognize the union, it also doesn’t grant the financial and property rights of people who have chosen to be together for life, exactly as heterosexual couples have been doing for centuries. For now, this sort of protection is possible only if the couple chooses to work around the law by entering into a private, written agreement, filed with a notary public, specifying how their union is to be governed in terms of property and mutual support. Inheritance then needs to be governed by a separate will and testament for each party, none of which are things that heterosexual couples have to worry about. Heterosexual married couples automatically enjoy all the property, inheritance and mutual-support rights established under Italian family law.
Lubos and I weren’t interested in marriage per se. In fact, I think it’s a failing institution. But in order to recreate something similar that protects us and enables us to have legal responsibility toward each other, we would have had to sign five separate notarized deeds for the paltry sum of 4,000 euros. For the same amount we would have spent on notarized deeds, we were able to pay for a trip to New York, for our wedding, and for a reception with 200 guests!
Our marriage in Italy isn’t valid because the Italian Constitution doesn’t envisage a marital union between two people of the same sex. After filing our marriage here, we enjoyed a moment of peace and hope, knowing full well that it wouldn’t have lasted long.
The next day, the prefect of Trieste at that time, Francesca Adelaide Garufi, informed us that she would be canceling the registration — despite her knowing that a court ruling in the Lazio region had already established that a prefect has no powers over the registry office.
I wrote to her, asking her not to withdraw the filing, to respect the ruling, and to acknowledge both our union and the hypocrisy of it all.
I got no reply.
The record of our marriage, filed by Roberto Cosolini, the mayor of Trieste, as both a provocation and a protest, is still on record with the Trieste registry office. Lawyers with Rete Lenford have been helping us, too. From their first filing in Grosseto and on to the more egregious cases of Pisapia and Marino, they have been gathering documentation and completing the motions they’ll be filing. They’ve been supporting us and our case right from the start in the hopes that this debate will be decisive and ultimately lead to victory.
Lubos and I are still married.
We’ll be doing all we can so that pressures from the European Union, moratoriums and fines will eventually break through this political resistance and the meddling of the Church. We pay the same taxes as all Italian citizens, and we expect the same rights.
If the Italian government recognizes marriages in New York by heterosexual couples, it has to recognize ours, too.
Editor’s note: Italian senate passed watered-down bill recognising same-sex civil unions on February 25. The legislation passed by the senate — in an overwhelming 173–71 vote — will allow same-sex couples to enter civil unions that provide legal rights similar to those of married couples. But a provision in the legislation that would have granted non-biological parents in same-sex unions some parental rights — known as the “stepchild” provision — was struck from the legislation this week following a parliamentary agreement between Renzi’s Democratic party and his coalition partners, the New Centre Right.