Postcard from... Milan
Compared with the rest of western Europe it's still like the 1970s
here. Nonetheless, Milan yesterday showed why it's seen as the least
provincial Italian city, by being the first in the country to formally
register a gay couple.
Activist and politician Paolo Hutter and his partner, Paolo Oddi, signed their civil union certificate to a blaze of camera flashes in the city's town hall across the road from the Scala opera house.
In front of left wing councillors and liberal TV host Gad Lerner, Mr Hutter praised Milan's mayor Giuliano Pisapia for allowing it to happen.
Mr Pisapia is proving to be a likeable and effective first citizen of Italy's finance capital, prepared to take on reactionary elements of the centre-left and the church as well as the immigrant-bating right-wingers he kicked out of office in 2010.
When he announced in July that registered gay couples would get the same civic benefits as married couples, local clergy predicted the end of civilisation.
Alfonso Colzani, the spokesman on family issues for the powerful Milan diocese, even declared that the introduction of civil partnerships for straight and gay couples could "legitimise polygamy".
The influence of the church is largely blamed for Italy's dismal record on gay rights. But Mr Pisapia has opened the cracks in the damn. And with Matteo Renzi, Florence's modernising mayor, promising to campaign on a ticket of introducing full civil partnerships within 100 days of winning a general election, maybe things are changing.
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