The European Court of Human Rights has told Italy it must introduce state recognition of same-sex relationships after ruling in favour of three gay couples who claimed they needed greater legal rights.
Italy is the only country in Western Europe that recognises neither gay marriage nor civil partnerships and the predominantly Catholic country remains largely opposed.
Reuters reports that the seven judges said in their ruling: “The court considered that the legal protection currently available in Italy to same-sex couples … not only failed to provide for the core needs relevant to a couple in a stable committed relationship, but it was also not sufficiently reliable.”
The court also ordered the Italian government to pay each plaintiff €5,000 in damages as well as legal costs.
Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said this weekend his government would introduce legislation by the end of this year to create civil partnerships after a junior minister went on hunger strike protesting the lack of action.
It is likely, however, that the legislation will be blocked in the Italian Senate by opposition parties, and possibly one of Renzi’s own coalition partners, tabling hundreds of amendments.
A small number of municipalities in Italy have unilaterally adopted civil unions, but they have no recognition in the rest of the country.
In May Ireland, a formerly strong Catholic country like Italy, voted overwhelmingly in a referendum to redefine marriage to include gay couples. A Vatican official called the result a “defeat for humanity”.