Rights Court Sides With Italian Couples in Gay Marriage Debate

(CN) – Italy’s refusal to legally recognize the marriages of same-sex couples married abroad violates the couples’ rights to respect for private and family life, the European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday.

Six gay and lesbian couples – three married in Canada, one in California and two in the Netherlands – sought to have their marriages registered in Italy and were refused. Italian officials based their refusals on a 2001 order by the Ministry of Internal Affairs which said same-sex marriage in “contrary to the norms of public order.”

While the couples have since benefitted from a 2016 change in Italian law which recognized same-sex civil unions and allowed for the registry of same-sex marriages conducted abroad, the EU rights court noted the couples languished for several years before that in “a legal vacuum.”

“Indeed, as the law stood before the introduction of Law no. 76/2016 and subsequent decrees, the authorities could not formally acknowledge the legal existence of the applicants’ union (be it de facto or de jure as it was recognized under the law of a foreign state),” the 7-judge panel wrote. “The applicants thus encountered obstacles in their daily life and their relationship was not afforded any legal protection.

“No prevailing community interests have been put forward to justify the situation where the applicants’ relationship was devoid of any recognition and protection.”

The rights court ordered Italy to pay the 12 people involved nearly $5,900 each for their pain and suffering.

This past January, the Italian Supreme Court ruled the marriage of two women conducted in France must be recognized. In that case, the court found a small-town mayor’s refusal to certify the women’s marriage violated the EU constitution.

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