In what is being hailed as a landmark ruling, Italy’s highest civil court has ruled that gay people have a right to family life, affirming that they should have the equivalent rights of straight couples.
The ruling however did not affirm a right to marriage and specifically denied that Italy must recognize same-sex marriages from other countries.
In a ruling welcomed by gay rights groups, the court said that homosexuals have the right to “a family life” and, “in specific situations,” to “be treated the same as couples married by law.”
However, homosexuals still cannot legally marry and “do not have the right to register a marriage celebrated abroad,” it found.
The gay rights association Mario Mieli called the ruling “historic.”
“It is clear that the law needs to urgently adapt to changes in society. We cannot wait any longer,” it said in a statement.
It is hoped that this ruling will give energy to a growing call for civil unions in the country.
The case was brought by two men who married in The Hague in 2002. When they attempted to register their partnership in a small town near Rome in which they were living at the time, they were denied by the town council. They subsequently launched a legal battle for recognition.
While this ruling does not in fact constitute a win for the couple, it suggests a developing legal opinion toward the rights of same-sex couples.
“Today’s Supreme Court judgement is important,” Fabrizio Marrazzo, spokesman for activist group Gay Center, is quoted as saying. “The ruling says that gay couples must also enjoy the same legal rights as any heterosexual couple. The words are clear and sharp. Parliament and the government must give an answer”.
Currently, Italy does not allow for same-sex partnership recognition and also doesn’t allow same-sex couples the right to adopt.
Italy, while having enshrined some legal protections for LGBT people in the employment sector, also still lacks broader legal protections for its LGBT citizens and, last year, the country’s lawmakers failed to move a bill that would have remedied this problem.