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social sciences

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However, the Catholic protest generated an enormous amount of publicity for the parade and attendance at the march swelled beyond all expectations. The failure of the Church and its political allies to halt the march, and the attendant publicity the controversy gave to the issue of gay rights, are widely regarded as landmarks in the quest to secure equal rights in Italy.

The success of World Pride 2000 may mark the beginning of the breaking of silence regarding homosexuality in Italy.

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The Twenty-first Century

Since the beginning of the new century, the glbtq movement in Italy has sought legislation to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, to protect glbt people against hate crimes, and to secure recognition of same-sex couples.

In 2002, an openly gay member of Parliament, Franco Grillini, introduced legislation to prohibit discrimination in employment, accommodations, and other areas on the basis of sexual orientation. The legislation failed, as did Grillini's 2006 attempt to prohibit discrimination on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity.

However, in 2003 European Union directives against discrimination in employment on the basis of sexual orientation have rendered such discrimination illegal throughout Italy. Still, the refusal of the Italian Parliament to pass legislation to enforce these directives means that it is difficult to redress instances of discrimination.

The courts have recently become more active in responding to blatant instances of discrimination, as when a court in Catania recently awarded a large sum to a gay man who suffered discrimination from the Italian defense and transport ministries, but the fact remains that there is no law that prohibits discrimination against gay people throughout Italy.

In 2004, the region of Tuscany banned discrimination against homosexuals in the areas of employment, education, public services, and accommodations. However, Prime Minister Silvio Berscolini's right-wing national government challenged the new law in court, contending that only the national government has the power to pass such laws.

Italy's Constitutional Court struck down the law's provisions with respect to accommodations offered by private homes and religious institutions, but otherwise upheld the legislation, marking a significant victory for gay rights.

Since then, the Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna regions have also adopted similar legislation.

Several Italian regions governed by leftist parties or center-left coalitions have passed resolutions in favor of civil unions, while other regions governed by right-wing or center-right coalitions have passed resolutions opposing any recognition of same-sex couples. These actions are largely symbolic, since regions currently have no power to confer or deny rights to couples, though that may change soon as federal reforms may grant more power to regions.

Similarly, while several large cities, including Turin, Florence, Bologna, and Padova, as well as some smaller towns, have established registries in which civil unions and partnerships can be registered, these are also largely symbolic. They are instruments to make same-sex relationships visible, but they confer no legal benefits.

Yet attempts to establish such registries are often controversial, as in the case of Rome, where such registries have failed to pass under both center-left and right-wing administrations.

Parliament has repeatedly rejected bills that would confer pension, inheritance, taxation, or property rights to same-sex couples. Hence, same-sex couples in Italy are significantly disadvantaged in comparison with couples in many other European countries.

Italy is now one of the few Western democracies that refuses to recognize unions between same-sex partners. In addition, attempts to pass hate crimes legislation have repeatedly failed.


Despite the failure of the glbtq movement to secure rights through the political process, an increased visibility of gay communities in Italy may presage success in the future.

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