When Alessandra Bernaroli, a transgender woman in Italy, officially changed her name and gender on her identity card, the Bologna court forced a divorce with her wife, also named Alessandra. Their appeal for the divorce was denied, but Italy's high court has now overturned the initial ruling, claiming to balance "the State's interest in not changing the model of heterosexual marriage with the interest of the couple where one of the two components changes sex." This ruling has, according to The Daily Beast, "essentially…given the green light to civil unions." The high court even asked Italian lawmakers to consider a form of marriage for same-sex couples.
While issues of equality have made traction with many Italians, the political and legal status of the LGBT community in Italy is practically nonexistent. In January, the LA Times reported that Alessandra Filograno, an activist at Rome's Gay Center, said "We have an Italian society open to gays…We don't have a political class in favor…They seem to be the [mouthpiece] of the Catholic Church." Even Rome's mayor, Ignazio Marino, according to The Daily Beast, has shown his support for LGBT rights in various ways, like hanging rainbow-colored Christmas lights across the city and marching in the Gay Pride parade. He has also promised a civil union registry in Rome for same-sex couples who marry abroad, a slap in the face to the Vatican's conservative views. But the LGBT community still lacks rights and protections. Despite several attempts, the Italian parliament has failed to pass an anti-discrimination law for gay and lesbian people. Same-sex couples also cannot adopt, and marriage for same-sex couples is also illegal in the country, though several cities have civil union registries. At the Pride parade, Marino said:
We need to put pressure on parliament so Italy can overcome the shame of lagging behind the rest of the European Union.
Italy is the only major Western European nation that offers practically no rights or protections to the LGBT community. Over 10 nations in Europe allow same-sex couples to marry or at least offer some type of legally recognized same-sex partnership – Italy offers no such rights.
The ruling to reverse the Bernarolis' annulment by the Italian high court sets a precedent and marks progress in favor of recognizing same-sex couples. Similar developments have been made in South Australia, where the government is moving to end forced divorces of transgender people. Rodney Croome, Australia's Marriage Equality national director, has said of the current laws on marriage:
These laws are cruel to transgender Australians and their partners and demeaning of the solemn marriage vows these couples have made.
Interestingly, the Catholic Church has not annulled the union because it still recognizes Bernaroli only by her gender when she was baptized. But the Bernarolis said they want to:
…make an appeal to the pope, who seems so open an innovative, because he listens to so many people in trouble, the poor, the discriminated against. Why not call us, too?