Italy's city mayors go to the barricades to defend same-sex marriages performed abroad

The country is the last major Western nation not to allow even civil partnerships for gays and lesbians
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The Independent Online

Italian cities are leading a rebellion against the state over its hard-line stance on gay marriage.

The mayors of Rome, Milan, Bologna and Naples are openly defying an order by the coalition government's right-wing Minister of the Interior, Angelino Alfano, to remove from city registers any gay and lesbian unions performed abroad.

Italy is the last major Western nation not to allow even civil partnerships for gays and lesbians. As a result, hundreds of same-sex couples have travelled to the US or other EU countries to tie the knot.

Mr Alfano says that the inclusion of same-sex couples on marriage registers contravenes Italian law. The minister insists he is trying to protect the traditional family but the edict has sparked a major backlash as campaigners, centre-left politicians and even some on the centre-right say that Mr Alfano and the state are desperately out of touch with the rest of Europe.

Corriere Della Sera reported last week that, among centre-right voters, eight out of 10 now support the introduction of civil partnerships and Rome's mayor, Ignazio Marino, dismissed the diktat, saying he would continue to register same-sex couples. "Anyone looking today for conflict over love probably lives in the wrong century," Mr Marino told a gathering on Rome's Capitoline Hill. "I believe that a discussion of this type in 2014 on any civil union reflects the feelings and visions of the 1900s."

Last Friday, Giuliano Pisapia, the left-wing mayor of Milan, in effect stuck two fingers up at the Interior Minister by declaring that he had just "personally signed, as an official of the civil state, the transcription of seven marriages of persons of the same sex who were married abroad". Such registrations, while largely symbolic, do allow gay couples equal access to municipal benefits.

Hours after Mr Pisapia's declaration, police arrived at Bologna's town hall to seize the city's register, which contains the names of four same-sex couples married abroad. But Bologna's mayor, Virginio Merola, was defiant. "I will not annul the registrations," he told reporters. "Italian cities, and in particular Bologna, wish to be part of Europe and not have first- and second-class citizens."

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