Civil unions for Italy?

Italian PM Matteo Renzi said: Gay rights will be the same as those for married heterosexual couples.  Many people consider Italy as a pretty conservative country. Would you say that Renzi is risking some backlash with this initiative or maybe not so much, and why? Read few comments.

Alessandra MignolliRicercatrice di Diritto internazionale, Dipartimento di Scienze Giuridiche, Sapienza Università di Roma

The topic you are looking into this time is a very sensitive one for Italian politics.  As you are well aware, the Catholic Church is traditionally contrary to LGBT rights and this has influenced negatively the legislative process in this matter.

The information you have about Renzi’s proposals are correct.  He committed the government to address the issue of civil partnerships and I think he will try to have a legislation passed by the parliament.  This time something will necessarily have to happen because the Judiciary is starting to press the Parliament on the need to give a solution to the lack of rights for gay couples.  The Constitutional Court in a recent judgement said that it is illegitimate the law that automatically breaks a marriage in case one of the spouses has a gender rectification. And many tribunals are even starting to give recognition to same sex marriages contracted abroad.  The Constitutional Court urged the legislative to enact a non discriminatory legislation granting same sex couples the same rights as married heterosexual coupes.  In the same direction gored also the jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice which,  while not competent about the domestic law of the member states,  nevertheless affirms, whenever there is the chance,  the principle of non discrimination for same sex couples.

Mauro Barisione, Associate professor, Department of Social and Political Sciences – SPS, Università degli studi di Milano

Attitudes toward homosexuality have been changing fast over the last years, in Italy as well as in many Western countries. Although some homophobic attitudes resist, it is now becoming conventional wisdom that gay couples should have more rights. The spread of legalization of same-sex marriages – from Spain to France, from Argentina to the UK – has made acceptance of legal recognitions of gay rights easier in Italy too. So, what turned out to be impossible for Romano Prodi’s government in 2006-2008 should be viable to Renzi, also given a more strategic consideration: he clearly gained the EP election less than one month ago, so he is still living his “honey moon” with Italian public opinion. And this is the temporal window when controversial policies can realistically be implemented.

Geoff AndrewsWriter and Academic, Author of the book Not a Normal Country: Italy After Berlusconi

I think it is a test of Renzi’s leadership and his credibility as a moderniser. He needs to demonstrate that he can deliver reforms. Italy is a Catholic country, though it has changed quite a bit in recent years, notably in the role of women and more liberal attitudes. There will be resistance from some conservatives, though support from the left. His opponents (which may include some in his own party) will have the dilemma of opposing his leadership, which seems Italy’s only hope at this time.

Davide DentiPhD student, School of International Studies, University of Trento, Editor for East Journal

Italy is currently backwards in what concerns gay rights, but public opinion is probably less conservative than the political elite. Already in 2006, 60% of the public backed Prodi’s project of civil unions, which then failed for the opposition of centrist parties and the conservative Catholic component of the PD (teo-dems). Also more recent polls show how public opinion of both centre-right and centre-left parties are strongly in favour of introducing civil unions for homosexual couples too; the main opposition remains from the centrist parties, which are nevertheless quite weak today. Within the PD, the teo-dems have mostly left the party in the last few years (e.g. Paola Binetti) while other Catholic party members have always taken a secular stance on the issue (e.g. Rosy Bindi).

Renzi has taken quite a few number of clear steps, in the last few months (starting with the accession to the Party of European Socialists), which set him apart from the usual shyness of the PD leadership in approaching issues of identity and positioning which might risk unsettling the balance between post-christiandemocrats and post-communists within the party. Having himself a Catholic background and having always been soft on the issue of gay rights, Renzi might be able to steer the party on this issue without risking fracturing it, especially since the issue of gay “marriage” is not at stake, though the contents of civil unions’ rights are basically the same. In a way, the civil partnership bill might help modernise the image of the PD among younger voters, while it shouldn’t unsettle too much the party nor a society which is already more secularised than its political sphere has recognised till today.

Mario Mignone, Director of the Center for Italian Studies, Stony Brook University

In many respects, Italy is not a conservative country any more, especially when look at the divorce rate, marriages, abortions, etc. In the US abortion is still a big issue of discussion; in Italy it’s a dead issue. Politicians usually feel the pulse of the people and then make a decision (they don’t follow ideals). Renzi must have a sense that the climate is safe to make that decision.

Richard Bellamy, Professor of Political Science, University College London

Italy has long been far more liberal on these issues than people tend to assume – both abortion and divorce were approved early on in referenda, and I strongly suspect that Renzi will have the backing of a majority of the population on this issue too, even in Catholic strongholds, such as the Veneto, certain parts of the south excepted.

Diego GarziaJean Monnet Post-doctoral Fellow, European University Institute

THe proposal has only been announced, no serious actions at the parliamentary level yet. Anyways, my first reaction would link to the idea that Renzi has been working so far on the “centrist” voters for electoral reasons. EP elections are now over and no other election is foreseen at the horizon – maybe time for him to look back to the core leftist supporters?




2 Responses

  1. Thanks for this great roundup of opinions of activists and scholars in Italy and the EU about the climate on the ground in Italy!

  2. I think that in Italy until 2018 there will be not a law about civil partnership because many politician are against. I remember that in Italian force (army…) there is a new law since 2010 that gay military must (or could) be fired because they are homosexual
    In the Italian parliament there are many laws to approve about civil partnership or gay marriage since 1993, after some months those laws go in trash. Renzi would a law about civil partnership because in Italian parliament the marriage is only man with woman not gay
    This is the Italy. I hope that civil partnership are done but i believe no ;(

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