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Ideas

Our home for bold arguments and big thinkers.

AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino
TIme for Italy to show some pride.
NOT CIVIL

There might soon be only one country left in Western Europe that doesn’t recognize same-sex unions

By Annalisa Merelli

The polls just closed in Ireland, and many fervently hope that the result will be the legalization of gay marriage.

The official results will only be announced tomorrow, at the earliest, but the map of Western Europe is already nearly completely tinted in rainbow colors.

The Vatican State aside—there is only one country left which does not allow same sex marriage or civil partnerships amongst gay couples: Italy.

Italy is dealing with gay unions with a “uniquely Italian embarrassment,” says Matteo Winkler, assistant professor of law at the école des Hautes Etudes Commerciales de Paris, who has done extensive research on the legislation of same-sex unions. Winkler tells Quartz that granting civil partnerships regardless of gender is in the current government’s program, but that the Italian political scene—particularly the left, which in other countries has led the battle for marriage equality—is conspicuously dormant on the subject. A bill presented in June 2014 (link in Italian) to allow gay unions, albeit denying such unions the right to adopt, was stalled after over 4,000 amendments (link in Italian) were presented by opponents as a tactic to kill the measure.

Unlike other countries that, like Ireland, constitutionally state that marriage is a contract between a man and a woman, Italy’s constitution doesn’t mention gender requirements (pdf, p6, Italian). In 2014 a court upheld the fact that gay marriages aren’t forbidden by Italian law, yet such marriages are also not legally valid in Italy, since the law fails to explicitly recognize them.

While the central government ties itself in knots, some mayors are taking the matter in their hands. In 267 of the about 8,000 municipalities, mainly under center-left administration, same-sex couples are allowed to be included in the civil registry as “family.” These municipalities include big cities like Naples, Milan, and recently Rome, which on May 21 held a Celebration Day to mark the opening of a civil union registry. While such registries, said Winkler, aren’t “what same-sex couples deserve in terms of juridical protection,” they are the only available way to obtain any form of official recognition.

While Italy’s Catholic heritage is likely behind the cultural resistance towards gay unions, individuals don’t appear to be against it. An October 2014 survey found that 55% of Italian voters are in favor of same-sex marriage.