The European Court of Human Rights today issued a judgment in the case Oliari and Others v. Italy finding the country’s lack of recognition of same-sex couple to be a violation of human rights.
The court found that the homosexual couples had their Article 8 rights under the European Convention, the right to respect for private and family life, to have been breached.
While the ruling did not go as far as to require the Italian government to recognise same-sex marriage, the lack of other protections (such as domestic partnerships or civil unions) to be in violation. Italy remains the last country originally in the European Union to offer no protections for gay people – even countries where same-sex marriage is not legal, such as Germany, offer some form of protection for same-sex couples wanting the tax, legal and social benefits on formalising a relationship.
A long battle for same-sex couples, but far from over
Three gay couples had brought their case before the European Court of Human Rights after 18 years of failures in Italian domestic courts, as well as frustration with the general lack of advancement of gay rights in Italy.
In 2013 Italy attempted to set up “cohabitation agreements” for same sex couples, which aimed to provide some of the basic protections and benefits of marriage, however the court declared that these rules were not enough and didn’t provide the basic needs that such arrangements require.
It is now thought that Italy will provide some sort of recognition of same-sex couples – but in with strong conservative opposition, it may be unlikely to legalise same couples for some time. However, recent developments in the United States and Ireland regarding same-sex marriage have shown that a rapid change of policy can occur, even in countries with strong conservative and religious backgrounds. The United States legalised same-sex marriage via the Supreme Court, and more recently the a referendum passed in Ireland granting marriage rights to same-sex couples.