Italy finally has civil partnerships for gay and lesbian couples. From third-class citizens, we are now second-class, hoping to be first-class one day.
But the Italian LGBTI movement is still divided.
‘A weak law is better than no law,’ says half the Italian LGBTI world. ‘No, it’s not. This law is an awful compromise,’ the rest reply.
Whichever side is right, the law has passed after years of battle. Millions of third-class Italian citizens are now second-class. We have some of the rights and responsibilities of marriage, without full equality. And it has given us hope that, one day, we will be first-class citizens in our own country, like everyone else.
The law introducing civil unions in Italy is a long-awaited normalization. The country of sun, arts, monuments, pasta, pizza and Dolce Vita is one of the last European countries to recognize LGBTI rights.
Several times the European Union and the Italian Constitutional Court have asked the government in Rome to give LGBTI people all the rights they deserve. For the first time, it has been done by a left-wing government which, in the past, has been accused of being subservient to the Catholic Church.
The State of the Vatican is just three or four miles away from Montecitorio, the seat of the Italian lower chamber of Parliament which yesterday finally approved the Unioni Civili (civil partnerships) law.
From Michelangelo’s dome atop Saint Peter’s Church, the most important Catholic place of worship, you can easily see the seats of the Italian government, of the Italian presidency, the Parliament and the Senate.
But this time Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and his ministers did not kneel to the Pope and his cardinals and bishops. Kudos to Renzi and his cabinet, and kudos to several right-wing members of parliament as well – in fact the law has been approved with a very large and bipartisan majority.
Of course, Prime Minister Renzi had to establish a vote of confidence – vote for this law or the parliament will fall. And, of course, the new Italian law is a compromise, which doesn’t allow the right to adoption, not even the adoption of your partner’s children, your stepchildren. During the debate, several Italian politicians asked to water down the law, which was considered – by them – too similar to ‘traditional’ marriage. This is what the Church asked for – fight in Parliament and don’t let these “revolutionary” forces win.
But for those who are born in Italy like me, who know that only 15 years ago the LGBTI issues were an absolute taboo, yesterday, Wednesday 11 May, will be remembered as a pivotal date in Italian history.
Now the diverse world of Italian LGBTI associations will fight to get this law improved and strengthened. And the fight to protect even what we have won already is not over. It is likely the most bigoted members of parliament will ask for a referendum to overturn the law, exactly as has happened in other European and non-European countries.
But today, at the end of a debate on civil partnerships which lasted for years, we can only be happy and proud of our country.
Italy today is finally part of the civilized world and the Italians finally confirmed love is the real revolution.
Daniele Guido Gessa is a London correspondent for the Italian media and a Gay Star News contributor.