Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has said his country can no longer put off civil unions after Catholic-majority Ireland legalized gay marriage by referendum on Friday (22 May).
Socially conservative Italy is now the only country in western Europe that does not recognize either gay marriage or civil unions.
‘Civil unions cannot be delayed any longer,’ Renzi privately confided after the vote, according to the La Repubblica newspaper.
He conceded that many in his center-left Democratic Party wanted full marriage equality but leading LGBTI campaigners in the party said that civil partnerships would be the realistic first step.
‘What joy,’ said Roberto Speranza, Democratic Party leader, of the result of Ireland’s referendum. ‘Now it is Italy’s turn.’
‘The moment has arrived, finally, to approve this before the summer’s end,’ said Democratic Senator Andrea Marcucci.
‘Ireland is giving us a lesson in civility,’ said Nichi Vendola, the gay president of the Apulia region since 2005.
Last week, 20 couples – 14 gay and six straight – committed to each other at Rome’s new civil union registry.