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article imageDefiant Rome mayor welcomes gay marriage in the Vatican's shadow

By Megan Hamilton     Oct 19, 2014 in World
Rome - The issue of gay marriage in Italy has been brought to the forefront by Rome's feisty mayor, Ignazio Marino, who registered 16 gay marriages that had been officiated abroad.
Same-sex marriage is currently illegal in Italy, and recently Interior Minister Angelino Alfano sent a notice instructing local prefects that any registrations of gay marriages that were celebrated abroad would be voided, and Rome's prefect has vowed to do this immediately, The Japan Times reports.
In this country where the Roman Catholic Church dictates much of the politcal goings-on, this issue divides the left-right coalition government of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Reuters reports.
Saturday's ceremony in Rome was the most high-profile recognition this issue has received so far in the country, and it was welcomed by members of Renzi's left-centrist Democratic Party with the sentiment that it was time for Italy to offer legislation that gives legal status to same-sex partnerships. The right-wing however, viewed it as deliberate provocation.
Reuters notes that a poll taken last year showed that gay marriage was only supported by a quarter of the population in Italy. It also showed that more than 85 percent supported the recognition of civil unions to give same-sex partners more rights.
Saturday's ceremony drew criticism from Alfano, who belongs to the New Center-Right party. In transcribing the documents Marino was doing little more than "signing autographs." Maurizio Gasparri, a senator affiliated with former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party said that Marino was "defying the law" and should resign, Reuters reports.
Several members of the clergy also condemned the ceremony.
Italy's Episcopal Conference, which is the national association of bishops, released a statement that echoed the political sentiments.
"Such arbitrary presumption, put on show right here in Rome at the present time, is unacceptable," the statement said, apparently referring to an assembly of bishops from around the world that had been going on for the last two weeks at the Vatican.
A small gathering of protesters who were demonstrating outside the city hall when the ceremony was taking place shouted "Shame" and "Buffoons" and held up placards saying "No to Gay Marriage."
Saturday was a crucial day in the fight for equal rights for all, Marino said, adding that "the most important right is to say to your companion 'I love you' and to have that be recognized," per The Japan Times.
"Today is a special day that I hope will soon become a normal day," Marino posted on his social media account. "How can you not call this love?" he added in another post, reports Bloomberg News.
The couples, gay and lesbian, were called up to witness the mayor record the date and locations of their weddings, and some brought their kids to the celebration. Among the places where the marriages had taken place: Spain, Portugal, and the United States.
Jonathon Dominic Spada, 26, from Santa Barbara, California, and Fabrizio Maffeo, 35, a computer specialist from Rome, attended the ceremony to register their marriage last year, which took place in Boston.
"It's important — a limited recognition, but it's something," Maffeo said. "I'm proud of our mayor."
Now, the next step for would be for Italy to change its law to allow gay marriage and gay adoption, something that he and Spada were looking forward to.
Renzi said he plans to propose legislation allowing gay unions, but this wouldn't include adoption rights, The Japan Times reports.
"We have a lot of work to do to make sure everyone's rights are recognized," Marino said prior to transcribing the first of the 16 marriages. He took a little bit of time to stand with the spouses and pose for photos after handing them the registration documents.
Milan and Bologna also transcribe same-sex marriages, Bloomberg News reports.
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