LGBT rights in Italy

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LGBT rights in Italy
Template:Map caption
Template:Map caption
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal
Gender identity/expression Transsexual persons allowed to change legal gender
Recognition of
No recognition of same-sex couples
Adoption -
Military service Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly
Discrimination protections Sexual orientation protections in employment (see below)

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Italy may face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity are legal in Italy, but same-sex couples and households headed by same-sex couples are not eligible for the same legal protections available to opposite-sex couples.

Italian opinions have changed in the past and people are now more supportive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) rights, but tend to be more repressive than other European nations. Conservative Italian politicians such as Silvio Berlusconi have often been opposed to increasing gay rights.[1] A Eurobarometer survey published on December 2006 showed that 31% of Italians surveyed support same-sex marriage and 24% recognise same-sex couple's right to adopt (EU-wide average 44% and 33%).[2] A recent 2007 poll asking whether they supported the civil partnership law for gays. Support for the measure was at 45% support, with 47% oppose. 8% said they were unsure.[3]

Legal Status

History since unification

Italian unification in 1860 brought together a number of States which had all (with the exception of two) abolished punishment for sexual actions between men as a result of the Napoleonic Code. Providing this was consensual and done in private.

The two exceptions had been the Kingdom of Sardinia which punished homosexual acts between men (although not women) under articles 420-425 of the penal code promulgated in 1859 by Victor Emmanuel II, and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

The former Kingdom of Sardinia adopted the approach of the other States, and decriminalised homosexual acts. However the former Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was permitted to continue outlawing such relations, taking into account the "particular characteristics of those that lived in the south.

This bizzarre situation, where homosexuality was illegal in one part of the kingdom, but legal in another, was only reconciled in 1887, with the promulgation of the Zanardelli Code which abolished all differences in treatment between homo and heterosexual relations across the entire territory of Italy.

Since the introduction of the first Penal Code in 1889, effective in 1890, there have been no laws against private, adult and consensual homosexual relations.

This situation remained in place despite the fascist promulgation of 19 October 1930 of the Rocco Code. This wanted to avoid discussion of the issue completely, in order to avoid creating public scandal. Repression was a matter for the Catholic Church, and not the Italian State. In any case, it claimed, that most Italians were not interested in an issue only practised by less "healthy" and less "virile" foreigners.

This did not, however, prevent the fascist authorities from targeting male homosexual behaviour with administrative punishment, such as public admonition and confinement; and gays were persecuted in the later years of the Mussolini regime[4] and under the Italian Social Republic of 1943-45.Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; refs with no name must have content

The arrangements of the Rocco Code have remained in place over subsequent decades. Namely the principle that homosexual conduct is an issue of morality and religion, and not criminal sanctions by the State. However during the post-war period there have been at least three attempts to re-criminalise it - each attempt blocked by the Christian Democratic Party. And such attitudes have made it difficult to bring discussion of measures, for example to recognise homosexual relationships, to the parliamentary sphere.

The current age of consent is 14 years.

Military laws

Homosexuals are not banned from military service.

Laws against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation

In 2004, Tuscany became the first Italian region to ban discrimination against homosexuals[5] in the areas of employment, education, public services, and accommodations. The Berlusconi government challenged the new law in court, asserting that only the central government had the right to pass such a law. The Constitutional Court overturned the provisions regarding accommodations (with respect to private homes and religious institutions), but otherwise upheld most of the legislation.[6] Since then, the region of Piedmont has enacted a similar measure.[7]

Furthermore, since 2003, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in employment is illegal throughout the whole country, in conformity with EU directives.

In 2008, Danilo Giuffrida was awarded 100,000 euros compensation after having been ordered to re-take his driving test by the Italian transport ministry due to his sexuality; the judge said that the transport ministry was in clear breach of anti-discrimination laws.[8]

In 2009, the Italian Chamber of Deputies shelved a proposal against homophobic hate-crimes, that would have allowed increased sentences for violence against homosexuals, approving the preliminary questions moved by Union of the Centre and supported by Lega Nord and The People of Freedom[9] (although 9 deputies, politically near to the President of the Chamber Gianfranco Fini, have voted against).[10] The deputy Paola Binetti, who belongs to Democratic Party, has voted against the party guidelines.[11]

Recognition of same-sex relationships

Same-sex couples living in Italy have no shared rights to property, social security and inheritance. Since the 2005 regional elections, many Italian regions governed by centre-left coalitions have passed resolutions in support of French style PACS (civil union), including Tuscany, Umbria, Emilia Romagna, Campania, Marche, Puglia, Lazio, Liguria, and Abruzzo. Sicily and Lombardy, led by the centre-right House of Freedoms, officially declared their opposition to any recognition of same-sex relationships. All these actions, however, are merely symbolic as regions do not have legislative power on the matter.

Despite several bills on civil unions or the recognition of rights to unregistered couples were introduced into the Parliament in the past twenty years, none has been approved owing to the strong opposition from the social conservative members of parliament belonging to both coalitions. Last, on 8 February 2007 the government led by Romano Prodi introduced a bill[12] which would have granted rights in areas of labour law, inheritance, taxation and health care to same-sex and opposite-sex unregistered partnerships. The bill was never made a priority of the legislature and was eventually dropped when a new Parliament was elected after the Prodi government lost a confidence vote.

The current government led by Silvio Berlusconi opposes the recognition of any form of same-sex relationship.

LGBT rights groups and public campaigns

  • The major national organization for LGBT rights is, Arcigay. It was founded in 1985 and is currently working on gaining some form of legal recognition for same-sex couples.
  • Some openly gay politicians include, Franco Grillini,
  • In 2007, an ad showing a baby wearing a wristband label that said, "homosexual" caused controversy. The ads were part of a regional government campaign to combat anti-gay discrimination.[13]

Transgender related information

Cross dressing is not illegal in Italy, and sex change operations are also legal, with medical approval. However, gender identity is not a part of official anti-discrimination law.

In 2006 a police officer was reportedly fired for cross-dressing in public while off duty.[14]

The first transgender MP was Vladimir Luxuria, who was elected in 2006 as a representative of the Communist Refoundation Party. While she was not reelected, she went onto be the winner of a popular reality television show called L`Isola dei Famosi.[15]

Public Opinion

Due to the influence of the Roman Catholic Church, attitudes towards homosexuality in Italy tend to be more conservative than in other parts of Western Europe. Nevertheless, there is a significant liberal tradition, particularly in the biggest cities (compared to the more conservative reality of Italian provinces).

A January 2010 poll found that 51.0% of the population believed that homosexual love should be regarded as equal to heterosexual love, 35.0% believed that homosexuality should be tolerated as long as it's not ostentatious, while 9.0% defined it as immoral.[16] There were substantial differences between different age categories: while 62.1% of people aged 25–34 believed homosexual love to be equal to heterosexual love, only 33.9% of those aged over 65 agreed.[17] Regional differences were also present: whereas 60.1% of respondents from the North-Western region believed that homosexual love and heterosexual love was equal, this fell to only 39.0% in the Islands region (Sicily and Sardinia).[16]

The same poll also asked people what their reaction would be if they found out that their child was gay or lesbian. 53.5% replied that they would accept the fact without any problems, 13.7% would merely tolerate the fact as long as their child didn't mention it again, 12.7% would not accept it and 2.2% would consider sending their child to a doctor. Women were found to be around 8% more accepting than men. There were strong geographical differences. In the Northeast, 71.2% of respondents would accept their child, compared to 58.4% in the Centre, 56.2% in the Northwest and only 43.6% in the South.[17]

Summary table

Homosexuality legal Yes
Equal age of consent Yes
Anti-discrimination laws in employment Yes
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services No
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) No
Same-sex marriage(s) No
Recognition of same-sex couples No
Both joint and step adoption by same-sex couples No
Gays allowed to serve in the military Yes
Right to change legal gender Yes
Access to IVF for lesbians No
MSMs allowed to donate blood Yes

See also


  1. "Berlusconi bids for Catholic vote in Sunday's polls", AFP. 
  2. Eight EU Countries Back Same-Sex Marriage, Angus Reid Global Monitor, 24 December 2006 (based on Eurobarometer data)
  3. Italians Divided Over Civil Partnership Law, Angus Reid Global Monitor, 21 February 2007
  4. L’omosessualità in Italia
  5. Text of Legislation (In Italian)
  6. Text of Decision (In Italian)
  7. Text of Legislation (In Italian)
  8. "Italian wins gay driving ban case", BBC News, 13 July 2008. Retrieved on 13 July 2008. 
  9. "Camera affossa testo di legge su omofobia", Reuters, 13 October 2009. Retrieved on 13 October 2009. (Italian) 
  10. "Omofobia, testo bocciato alla Camera E nel Pd esplode il caso Binetti", Corriere della Sera, 13 October 2009. Retrieved on 13 October 2009. (Italian) 
  11. "Omofobia, la Camera affossa il testo Caos nel Pd: riesplode il caso Binetti", La Stampa, 13 October 2009. Retrieved on 13 October 2009. (Italian) 
  12. "Italy may recognise unwed couples", BBC News, 9 February 2007. Retrieved on 13 July 2008. 
  13. "Gay newborn poster sparks row in Italy", Reuters, 25 October 2007. 
  14. "Cross-dressing Italian cop given the boot", UPI, 29 December 2006. 
  15. "Luxuria: "Ora la sinistra mi critica ma vado avanti"", il Giornale, 25 November 2008. Retrieved on 13 October 2009. (Italian) 
  16. 16.0 16.1 [1]
  17. 17.0 17.1 "La regolamentazione delle coppie di fatto", Corriere della Sera, 15 May 2009. (Italian) 


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