Italy in breach of ECHR by preventing gay marriage
In its in the case of Oliari and Others v. Italy(application no. 18766/11 and 36030/11) the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held, unanimously, that there had been a violation of article 8 – right to respect for private and family life – of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
The case concerned the complaint by three homosexual couples that under Italian legislation they do not have the possibility to get married or enter into any other type of civil union.
The court considered that the legal protection currently available to same-sex couples in Italy – as was shown by the applicants’ situation – did not only fail to provide for the core needs relevant to a couple in a stable committed relationship, but it was also not sufficiently reliable.
A civil union or registered partnership would be the most appropriate way for same-sex couples like the applicants to have their relationship legally recognised.
The court pointed out, in particular, that there was a trend among Council of Europe member states towards legal recognition of same-sex couples – 24 out of the 47 member States having legislated in favour of such recognition – and that the Italian Constitutional Court had repeatedly called for such protection and recognition.
Furthermore, according to recent surveys, a majority of the Italian population supported legal recognition of homosexual couples.
The court found that legislation establishing civil unions or registered partnerships would be the “most appropriate way for same-sex couples like the applicants to have their relationship legally recognised”.
It dismissed the fact some Italian cities, among them Rome, have recognised foreign same-sex couples’ marriage, saying these decisions were mere gestures as they did not confer any rights on couples.
Although marriage and civil unions between gay people are not legally safeguarded in Italy, rules were put in place in December 2013 that provided for “cohabitation agreements”.
However, the court found these limited in scope and that they did not provide basic rights, such as those relating to inheritance, to a couple in a stable relationship.