Italy struggles for same-sex marriage law

Rome. Protesters hand banners reading: Wake Up Italy. Credit to: The Today Post

Two men are sitting on a bench hugging each other, in Leicester Square. In front of them, a blonde and blue-eyed child is chasing pigeons. She smiles and shouts at the animals that fly away. One of the two men says to the child: “Come on, princess, it is getting late. We have got to come home.” She holds the hands of the two men and they all go home.

A scene like this is usual in London. Gay couples can go out freely, without the fear of rejection or prejudice. And they have rights. They can get married and have a family. From the UK to the USA, from France to Spain, gay marriages are now recognised as a right in the most civilised nations in the world.

Though Italy, a member of the G8 and one of the most important countries in the EU, is still lagging behind. Not only are gay people roughly discriminated in many cases, but also the State does not recognize any rights to them. They are not considered as a family. They cannot adopt children. They do not have the right of inheritance.

As Lorenzo Martini, a PR student at the University of Westminster, explained, being gay in Italy is tough. He also said what he thinks about the same-sex law in Italy and his experience in London.

What are the civil unions?

The families already exist. In Italy, there are about 16 million families, of which 7,513 are homosexual couples, according to the most recent statistics released by Istat (the official institute for data) in 2011. 7,513 families that the Italian State does not recognise. Istat also suggests that they could be even more.

In 2007, the government led by Prime Minister Romano Prodi tried to establish the civil partnerships for LGBT couples but the bill was greeted with criticism. As Prodi’s government ended with his resignation in early 2008, also the civil partnerships were set aside.

In the last few months, the Italian Parliament debated over the re-establishment of civil partnerships again, that will regularise the status of same-sex couples.

The bill, known as “Cirinnà” which is the name of the democrat MP who drew it up (see her on the tweet below), is being underway for two years and it is now discussed in the Senate, the Chamber of the Parliament where there is no a clear majority.

It sets up the civil unions. According to it, same-sex couples (as well as heterosexual ones) are now recognised as a nuclear family. Civil unions are a new institution that would safeguard all the thousands of couples in Italy that are not married.

The bill also envisages giving the chance for same-sex couples to adopt a child, only if one partner already has one. This right, contained in the Article 5, is known as “stepchild adoption” and it has been accepted with heavy criticism.

The Catholic members of the Parliament, even in the Democratic Party itself, are obstructing the bill in the Senate. They are concerned that the stepchild adoption may open the doors to the practice of surrogacy.

During last week, after an intense debate over some amendments to the Article 5, no majority came out and the vote was postponed, with the increasing discontent of the LGBT associations. It is a situation that reminds the bill through which Mr Cameron legalised the same-sex marriage in the UK in 2013.

The different points of view?

Daniele Viotti, activist for LGBT rights and MEP. Credit to: Daniele Viotti’s Facebook Page

Daniele Viotti, a member of the European Parliament for the Democratic Party and activist for the right and equality of LGBT people, outlined the Italian situation: “The ruling class in our country has no courage, it is not able to think of a future. It is normal that a society is conservative but politics should not.”

He went on: “Politics cannot be based on polls, but on values and perspectives, otherwise we will never make it through. The bill must pass without changes”

Mr Viotti is also clear when it comes to the stepchild adoption. He affirmed: “Those who are against the bill use the stepchild adoption to scare the moderates. Paradoxically, they can deny us the marriage but not the possibility of adoption that already exists. The family is a concept: there is no natural family. Family clusters around love.”

Massimo Gandolfini, promoter of “Defend our Children” committee. Credit to:

Massimo Gandolfini, promoter of the committee “Difendiamo i nostri bambini” (Defend our children), attacks the bill. He said: “This law is unacceptable. It should be stopped and reviewed. They are trying to change the human sociology but the only family is the one recognized in the article 29 of our Constitution: the Republic recognizes the rights of the family as a natural society based on the marriage.”

He added: “It is a distortion when we compare the family to a civil union. Besides, stepchild adoption will legalise the surrogacy. A gay couple can go to another country, buy a child, come back and settle down as a family. But we are clear: we want that our children grow up thinking the only family is the one made up of a mother and a father.”

What is the future?

As the debates embittered, the LGBT associations took to the streets in 100 cities to push the Parliament to approve the bill on 23 January. Instead, the committees against the civil unions responded with a manifestation called Family Day at the Circo Massimo in Rome, on 30 January.

On the above picture, the manifestation for the LGBT rights in Piazza della Scala, Milano. In tweet below, the thousands of participants at Family Day in Rome.

While the bill is blocked in the Senate, Mr Viotti explains the next step: “We need to have a set of rules that guarantees the rights to same sex couples. We do not have the majority so we have to vote with those who want. We bite the bullet. And we hold our noses.”

If the Cirinnà will pass, Italy will exceed the level of the other most developed countries in terms of civil rights. 7513 already existing families are waiting for a regularisation.

Published on WestminsterWorld on 21 February 2016

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