Rome celebrates first gay civil unions

Twenty couples seal their commitment at City Hall

(ANSA) - Rome, May 21 - Rome's brand-new civil unions registry kicked off Thursday as 20 couples - 14 of them gay and six straight - sealed their commitment to one another at City Hall. Actors Michela Andreozzi and Massimiliano Vado were first in line to celebrate their civil union on what center-left Mayor Ignazio Marino has called Celebration Day.
    Another couple tying the knot are Paola and Stella, both volunteers at Rome's Gay Center who have been together for 31 years.
    "Today a just, serene, peaceful and egalitarian Italy takes center stage," said grooms Mauro Cioffari and Davide Conte. "Long live love, long live liberty".
    The proceedings were briefly marred by a lone protester, who insulted the mayor and shouted "You are ruining Italy" at participants before leaving of his own accord.
    Rome's city council in January approved the establishment of a special register for civil unions.
    The controversial move was backed by Marino, who hails from the ruling Democratic Party (PD), his centre-left coalition and the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S).
    The New Center Right (NCD), Silvio Berlusconi's center-right Forza Italia (FI) and the rightwing Brothers of Italy (FdI) parties voted against.
    The Rome mayor, who has long favored the recognition of civil unions, was on hand for the vote that he called a "historic milestone".
    Marino, along with the mayors of Bologna, Florence, Reggio Emilia, Trieste and Udine, has already transcribed same-sex marriages contracted abroad to the city's registers.
    Interior Minister Angelino Alfano - who is from the NCD - has stated that mayors don't have the authority to do so under Italian law, which doesn't recognize gay marriages.
    The European Parliament in March called on EU member states that have not already done so, to recognise civil unions and same-sex marriage as a civil and human right.
    Premier Matteo Renzi has said his government wants a civil unions bill approved sometime this year.
    Also on Thursday, Italian bishops chief cardinal Angelo Bagnasco said in response to a question on Ireland's gay marriage referendum that "weakening families weakens society".


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