Same sex marriage – After Ireland… Italy?

After the historic vote in Ireland to allow same sex marriage The Hook is investigating marriage equality debates in different countries. In a three-part series we will look at the issue in Germany, Australia and Italy, where the Irish vote has sparked wider public debate.

In the aftermath of the Irish vote in favour of gay marriages, one thing must be told to all of those hoping the same thing will happen in Italy: it won’t.

Indeed, Italy doesn’t need a referendum to accept same-sex marriages.

The Italian constitution clearly states, “The Republic recognizes the rights of the family as a natural society based on marriage.”

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Differently from Ireland, the Italian constitution doesn’t explicitly say that the marriage must be between a male and a female. So there is no need to take to the streets and collect signatures to ask for a referendum.

Moreover, the Italian legislation is different from the Irish one. It doesn’t allow citizens to change the constitution with a referendum. Italians only have an abrogative power on laws promulgated by the Parliament, not on the constitution. A procedure of change in the constitutional chart is something that only the Chambers can start.

Still, even if it could seem that this makes things easier for Italy to join the crowded party of gay-friendly countries, nothing is really changing in the Bel Paese.

“It’s because of bigotry.”

To Andreia, a 30-year old Brazilian-Italian girl, bigotry is the term that summarizes the reason why Italy is one of the last countries to recognize gay unions.

“It’s a widespread problem,” she explains, as the guilt doesn’t reside only on one side.

“For example, we cannot simply blame a strong presence of the Church in Italy for this slowness in recognizing of gay rights,” Andreia says.

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Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin

It’s true, though, that the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin defined the Ireland referendum not only as a defeat of Christian principles, but also as a “defeat for humanity.”

“But the web reacted bluntly to his words,” says Andreia. According to her, the Cardinal’s declaration triggered a long row of sharp responses from all the political and social groups. This demonstrates, she says, that Italians are ready to oppose to such opinions, and also that the Vatican doesn’t support this radicalism.

“We cannot even say that Italians are attached to a traditional idea of family,” she considers.

It is a common thought that Italians have an old-fashioned idea of a family as composed by male and female united through marriage. This myth has a perfect example in the words of the owner of the famous Italian brand Barilla. In 2013, he publicly declared – and then retracted – that Barilla would never have same-sex couples in its ads because Barilla stands for “traditional family”.

To the idea that gay marriages are opposing the traditional idea of family, Andraia responds that, “Many of our politicians are divorced, re-married or are cohabiting instead of marrying. This is not really in line with the traditional family idea.”

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Regardless of the reasons for this Italian unwillingness in putting gay rights at the top of the agenda, this ‘stall’ is causing several practical problems.

For example, as the legislation is not explicitly forbidding same-sex unions, every Italian gay couple that is married abroad can apply for its union to be registered in Italy. But it is the mayor of the city in which the couple resides that has the last word on the topic.

“The result is that two cities, only 50 kilometres apart, can have a totally different policy on the matter,” Andreia explains. So, she adds, the registration of a same-sex union is deeply influenced by the political side of the mayor and by his/her personal opinion on the matter.

Yet, many are trying to put the system on the spot.

“A lot of gay couples are marrying abroad on purpose,” Andreia explains. This way, the number of legal controversies will increase as they try to register their marriage in their city of residence, and a legislative empasse will be created. This could help to demonstrate the underdevelopment Italy regarding the topic, and foster a reaction, according to her.

Andreia’s opinion is that it’s just a matter of time for things to change.

“At some point the European Union will intervene asking countries like Italy and Greece, lazy in talking on the topic, to adapt to the general trend.”

by Emanuele Del Rosso

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