Newspaper article International New York Times

Unable to Wed Gay Couples, Italian Mayors Rebel

Newspaper article International New York Times

Unable to Wed Gay Couples, Italian Mayors Rebel

Article excerpt

Several local leaders aim to force national legislators to clarify the legal standing of same-sex couples who have married abroad.

The crowd at an ornate room in Rome's City Hall erupted in applause as the mayor entered, wearing his formal green, white and red sash, and clapped in turn. The brides and grooms bent forward to sign an official registry. Guests hoisted babies, snapped pictures and dabbed away tears.

While the ceremony last weekend had all the trappings of a traditional civil wedding, it was a wedding in spirit only. All the couples had been legally married before, though not in Italy, where same-sex marriage is not recognized.

By registering the marriages, Rome's mayor, Ignazio Marino, joined a budding political rebellion by a growing number of mayors around Italy. With such registrations, the mayors hope to force the hand of national legislators to clarify a deepening legal muddle around gay unions, particularly for gay Italians married abroad.

"Today is a special day, but we still have a long way to go so that this may become a normal day," Mr. Marino said. "Because of the unfortunate lack of a national law, I can only register it" -- an act with more symbolism than legal impact.

Even if same-sex marriage is not legally recognized in Italy, local officials have increasingly been confronted with requests by gay couples to at least recognize the legal standing of unions officiated in places where same-sex marriage is allowed, like the fellow European Union countries Belgium and Spain; Canada; and a growing number of American states.

Such registrations can help gay couples navigate Italy's bureaucracy around a range of everyday problems, such as taking parental leave or allowing a non-European spouse to live in Italy. But it still leaves them far short of the full rights of married couples.

The small -- and still contested -- concession to gay couples began only in the spring, when a court ordered a Tuscan mayor to register a marriage that was joined in New York. …

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