Italy continues to drag feet on same-sex civil unions

"Where there is love, there is God." Gay pride rally, Palermo. [tatogra/Flickr]

The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights criticised Italy for its continuing stance on same-sex relationships and cast doubt on new legislation currently being considered by Rome’s lawmakers. EURACTIV Italy reports.

While the debate rages on about the proposed Cirinnà law on civil unions, Nils Muižnieks told Italian media outlet ANSA that it “will not create new rights, it will simply eliminate discrimination based on sexual orientation”.

In July of last year, the European Court of Human Rights condemned Italy for violating the rights of homosexual couples. Civil union would be the most appropriate means by which to officially recognise a same-sex relationship, said the Strasbourg judges. 

Then there is the issue of adopting stepchildren, which is still a grey area for the Cirinnà law. While Italian lawmakers remain divided over the issue, Muižnieks reiterated Strasbourg’s stance on the matter, emphasising that, “If heterosexual unmarried couples can adopt their partner’s children, gay unmarried couples must be able to do the same.”

>>Read: Irish referendum stirs up same-sex marriage debate in Germany

The adoption of stepchildren has been legal in Italy for 33 years and provides for the adoption of a spouse’s child, so long as the biological parent gives consent and it is in the interests of the child. If the child is over 14 years old, their consent must be given too and if between 12 and 14, their opinion is at least taken into consideration.

The legislation only applies to heterosexual couples. In 2007, courts in Milan and Florence extended this right to cohabiting heterosexual couples and in 2014 and 2015, a court in Rome ruled that sexual orientation should not act as a barrier to adopting a stepchild.

In February 2013, Strasbourg ruled that to deny homosexual couples these rights constitutes a direct violation of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). However, the Court has no legal means by which to enforce this ruling on European states and Italy remains the only Western European not to formally recognise same-sex unions.

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