Same-sex marriage equality has been gaining massive amounts of public attention throughout Western Europe and North America. Recent legislation has legalized same-sex marriage in countries such as Ireland and the United States, although it did not go unchallenged. Now, here in Italy, same-sex marriage has become a hot-button topic within mainstream media. Although both sides have supporters, a map published by the ILGA-Europe (European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association) in 2015 shows that Italy, overall, supports gay rights less than any other country in Western Europe.
According to an article written last year by Marco Bresolin, “only one in two (51%)” Italians are in favor of same-sex marriage, as “Italians prefer to follow the Austro-German model, which prohibits marriages but allows civil unions.” Furthermore, one of the main sticking points regarding equality for same sex couples seems to be adoption rights.
This reaction seems to be a direct reflection of the majority opinion in the Italian Senate. On February 17, 2016 the Senate halted a same-sex marriage equality bill before it could be sent to the Assembly for a vote, claiming that it needed a revision. The portion of the bill in contention involves the “step child adoption” law that was passed in 1983. This law ensured straight married couples the right to adopt their spouse’s children, therefore making them a legal guardian. Later, in 2007, this provision was expanded to include any straight couple that lives together, or are considered to be in a “civil union”. Those in favor of the bill are fighting for that same provision to be extended to same-sex married couples as well, though it is entirely contingent upon whether or not a same-sex marriage bill is ever passed. The Senate then diluted the bill from concerning same-sex marriage, to only focusing on the legal recognition of same-sex civil unions. They also tried to eliminate adoption rights before the bill reached the Assembly in an attempt to prevent members of gay civil-unions from being able to adopt children; even if one of the partners involved is the child’s biological parent. They succeeded. On February 25th, a bill passed the Senate with a vote of 173-71 that would recognize civil unions between gay couples, although it did not include any adoption rights, and fails to recognize actual same-sex marriages.
There have also been events in opposition to same-sex marriage equality, including a public event held in Rome that was given the title “Family Day” on January 30th, which was supported by the Catholic Church. Organizers of the event, backed by the church, claimed to have over 1.5 million people in attendance. However, according to an article written in Il Foglio, it was discovered that a crowd of that size was physically impossible in the space, and that the real number of attendees was closer to 300,000. Still not insignificant. Meanwhile, there was recently a decision made by the Appellate Court of Rome that allowed for a lesbian couple to adopt each other’s children. The court decided that children have a right to “ongoing affection”, and that it should be one of the major deciding factors when making a ruling within family court.
In light of these recent events, and to help predict where the Italian debate on marriage equality may be going in the near future, it is important to understand the stance of each relevant Italian political party on the issue. For the most part, the Democratic Party is in favor of equal rights being afforded to gay married couples, despite the fact that Renzi allowed for the Senate to eliminate adoption rights in last month’s bill, as it avoided the obligation to review a multitude of other amendments. There is then the New Center Right party, which ultimately supports Renzi, although they only support civil unions, and not gay marriage equality. Similar to the New Center Right, Forza Italia is strictly in favor of civil unions, though they do not support adoption rights. In contrast, The Northern League is entirely opposed to gay marriage rights, civil unions, and adoption rights. Finally there is the Five Star Movement, which does not impose a party platform, but has left its members free to vote according to their conscience.
It is now up to politicians such as Nichi Vendola, of the Left Ecology Freedom party, and others who support gay rights, to continue the fight for marriage equality in parliament, where regular citizens have less of an influence. Though, considering the passionate stance that those for and against hold, it is unlikely that either side will sway their position; meaning that same-sex marriage equality in Italy will continue to be a major topic of debate heading into the foreseeable future.