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In Italy, Gay Marriage Efforts Met With Strong Vatican Opposition

June 19, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
From our partner, GlobalPost, correspondent Fabiana Formica reports on the Vatican's opposition to legalizing gay marriage in Italy, while a Supreme Court decision has given supporters hope.

JEFFREY BROWN: Finally tonight, the effort to legalize gay marriage in Italy has been met with opposition, specifically from the Vatican, but a recent Supreme Court ruling has given supporters hope.

Fabiana Formica reports for our partner GlobalPost.

FABIANA FORMICA, GlobalPost: Mario Ottocento and Antonio Garullo have been married for 10 years, but in Italy they are legally strangers.

After Holland became the first country in the world to allow same-sex marriage, Mario and Antonio became the first Italian couple to tie the knot.

ANTONIO GARULLO, married to Mario Ottocento (through translator): It’s like looking at the stallion, and something extraordinary goes by and you want to grab it. It was all very instinctive, incredible and beautiful. Even pronouncing the word marriage, get married for a gay couple was incredible at the time.

FABIANA FORMICA: But since that day, the two artists have fought to get their marriage legally recognized in their home country.

In Italy, same-sex marriage is not legally recognized and there is no legislation on matters concerning civil unions. But, recently Mario and Antonio made history when the Supreme Court in Rome pronounced an unexpected decision.

ANTONIO GARULLO (through translator): Italy’s Supreme Court declared that our marriage is existent, valid, not against the public order, but that it cannot officially be registered.

It declared we are a family. And that is what made the Catholic elite — and not only them — very angry. It states that a gay couple or same-sex couple is family, just like a married heterosexual couple, which is an extraordinary and revolutionary principle for Italy.

FABIANA FORMICA: The court ruled they have rights equal to those of married couples, but that their wedding is not legal because there’s no law on the issue. Without a law, same-sex partners in Italy cannot share property, inherit pensions, receive death benefits or make other important decisions concerning death or illness.

The decision has sparked a discussion that reaches far beyond their family and friends in a country where the Vatican is still a powerful force.

MAN (through translator): I think marriage is exclusively made for a man and a woman, not for people of the same sex.

WOMAN (through translator): Yes and no.

WOMAN (through translator): Gays are like all others, so marriage should be for heterosexuals or homosexuals.

FABIANA FORMICA: According to a recent poll, 44 percent of Italians are in favor of gay marriage, and 63 percent agree that gay couples who live together should have the same legal rights as married couples.

But Mario and Antonio say they have experienced just how quickly opinions can change. They live in Latina, a town near Rome built by Mussolini in the 1930s and renowned for its deeply fascist roots. Yet despite their conservative surroundings and the town’s right-wing political majority, they say they haven’t felt any discrimination here.

MARIO OTTOCENTO, Married to Antonio Garullo,(through translator): After we got married, when we came back to Latina, we could have found broken windows, writings on the walls or anything against us, but we found things to be normal. The mood was very serene and calm. Nothing had changed.

FABIANA FORMICA: Where staunch Catholics may grimace at the idea of marriage or adoption for gay couples, back in Latina, Mario’s mother says she doesn’t see any conflict with her faith:

MOTHER OF MARIO OTTOCENTO (through translator): Same-sex partners in Italy cannot share property, inherit pensions, receive death benefits or make other important decisions concerning death or illness.

ANTONIO GARULLO (through translator): We are the same as everyone else, so I hope that soon we Italians will have a law that makes us feel like everyone else.

FABIANA FORMICA: Until then, Mario and Antonio say they plan to use the court decision to fight for those rights one at a time.