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First published at eurOut.


There's been a lot going on in regards to gay rights in Italy last week. There's been a verdict that calling someone "gay" as an insult is a fineable offence, and Italians are still waiting for a decision on gay marriage.

Would a ban on same-sex marriage be unconstitutional?

While Italy does not recognise any type of same-sex union, there are many local administrations that have introduced civil union registries which are also open for same-sex couples. These civil unions, however, are not legally binding. At most they offer limited local benefits. [Wikipedia].

But there is hope that this could change for the better in the near future.

In April 2009 a case that suggested a conflict between the Italian Civil Code and the Constitution has been sent to the Constitutional Court after same-sex couples from Venice and Trento sued the administration for denying them a marriage license. [Wikipedia, lifeinitaly.com]

The Italian Civil Code does not allow same-sex marriage, while article 3 of the Italian Constitution forbids any kinds of discrimination and article 29 even states a gender-neutral definition of marriage [Wikipedia]. It is argued that banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional and against EU law.

The state attorneys, on the other hand, argue that the suit is not legitimate because it wanted to establish a legal precedent "through the manipulation of the fabric of the law", while laws can only be changed by parliament. [lifeinitaly.com]

The decision was originally expected by March 23, but has since been delayed.

gay is now a fineable insult in Italy

As Stephen Faris reports at globalpost.com, it all started with a dispute between policmen Dante S. and Luciano T. in 2002, who were competing to become chief of police. Dante sent Luciano a letter in which he called him gay, he also pointed out that Luciano had gone on a mountain holiday in the company of a sailor (What's wrong with that, I ask you? That they should rather have gone sailing or that he should have invited a mountaineering guide instead?) and made statements about Luciano that implied paedophilia.

Luciano felt offended and went to court, where the judge found that Dante indeed had meant what he had said as an insult and fined him to pay € 400 plus court fees.

Italian gay rights groups look at the finding as the first legal step to countering homophobia. Paolo Patanè, the president of gay rights group Arcigay, points out that not the word itself but the intention to hurt and humiliate is the offence and that "it's the association between being gay and being a pedophile that's inacceptable".

However, this is not the universal viewpoint of Italy's lgbt community. Mancuso, former president of Arcigay, sees the decision as a symptom of a general discomfort with homosexuality in Italy's society. Without a widespread, deeply rooted homophobia the word gay couldn't even be used as an insult in the first place.

What is your opinion on this? Do you think that fining people for using the word "gay" as an insult will help counter homophobia?

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joan_psmith: name icon (Default)
Joan Y. Psmith
"Because we're grown-ups now, and it's our turn to decide what that means."
~ xkcd

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