Last modified on 28 May 2015, at 11:42

LGBT rights in Italy

LGBT rights in Italy
Location of  Italy  (dark green)– in Europe  (light green & dark grey)– in the European Union  (light green)  –  [Legend]
Location of  Italy  (dark green)

– in Europe  (light green & dark grey)
– in the European Union  (light green)  –  [Legend]

Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 1890[1]
Gender identity/expression Transsexual persons allowed to change legal gender
Military service Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly
Discrimination protections Sexual orientation protections in employment (see below)
Family rights
Recognition of
No recognition of same-sex couples

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) persons in Italy face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. In Italy in pre-unification, homosexuality was legal only in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. The kingdom of Sardinia was a state homophobic and punished severely homosexuality. With the unification of Italy was this disparity, on the one hand the south Italy with homosexuality legal and instead in northern Italy where homosexuality was illegal. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity has been legal since 1890, but same-sex couples and households headed by same-sex couples are not eligible for the same legal protections available to opposite-sex couples. Transsexuals have been allowed to change their legal gender since 1982. Although discrimination regarding sexual orientation in employment has been banned since 2003, no other anti-discrimination laws regarding sexual orientation or gender identity and expression have been enacted yet. Public opinion on homosexuality has generally been regarded as socially liberal, with a recent poll in 2014 indicating that a majority of Italians support same-sex marriage.


Legal statusEdit

Same-sex sexual activity has been legal since 1890.[2] The age of consent is 14 years.

Military lawsEdit

Homosexuals are not banned from military service. The Armed Forces of Italy cannot deny men or women of homosexual orientation to serve within their ranks, as this would be a violation of Constitutional rights.

Legal protectionsEdit

In 2002, Franco Grillini introduced legislation that would modify article III of the Italian Constitution to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.[3][4] It was not successful.

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 2006, Grillini again introduced a proposal to expand anti-discrimination laws, this time adding gender identity as well as sexual orientation.[4] It received less support than the previous one had.

In 2008, Danilo Giuffrida was awarded 100,000 euros compensation after having been ordered to re-take his driving test by the Italian Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport due to his sexuality; the judge said that the Ministry of Transport 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]

On May 16, 2013, a bill which will prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity was presented in a press conference by four deputies of four different parties.[12] The bill is cosponsored by 221 MPs of the Chamber of Deputies but none of the center-right side has pledged his support yet. In addition to this bill some deputies introduced another two bills. On July 7, the Justice Committee advanced an unified bill.[13]

The bill on the Contrast of Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia was amended in compliance of the request of some conservative MPs who fear to be fined or jailed for stating their opposition to the recognition of same-sex unions. On August 5, the House started to consider the bill. On September 19, 2013, the House of Deputies passed the bill in a 228-58 vote (and 108 abstentions). On the same day a controversial amendment passed, which will protect free speech for politicians and clergymen. Now the bill goes to the Senate.[14]

Recognition of same-sex relationshipsEdit

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, Veneto, Apulia, Lazio, Liguria, Abruzzo and Sicily. Lombardy, led by the centre-right House of Freedoms, officially declared their opposition to any recognition of same-sex relationships[citation needed]. All these actions, however, are merely symbolic as regions do not have legislative power on the matter.

Despite the fact that several bills on civil unions or the recognition of rights to unregistered couples have been 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[15] 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.

In 2010, the Constitutional Court (Corte Costituzionale) issued a landmark ruling where recognized same sex couples as a "legitimate social formation, similar to and deserving homogeneous treatment as marriage".[16] Since that ruling, the Corte di Cassazione (the last revision court for some issues such as commercial issues or immigration issues) remanded a decision by a Justice of the Peace who had rejected a residence permit to an Algerian citizen, married in Spain to a Spaniard of the same sex. After that, this same judiciary stated that the questura (police office, where residence permits are issued) should deliver a residence permit to a foreigner married with an Italian citizen of his same sex, and cited the ruling 138.

LGBT parentingEdit

Adoption and foster care are regulated by the Legge 184/1983. Adoption is permitted only to married couples who must be only opposite-sex couples. Indeed according to Italian law there are no restrictions on foster care.

On January 11, 2013 the Supreme Court of Cassation upheld a lower decision of court which granted the sole custody of a child to a lesbian mother. The father of the child complained about the homosexual relationship of the mother which would be dangerous for the child. The Supreme Court rejected the father's appeal because it was not argued properly.[17]

On November 15, 2013 it was reported that the Court of Bologna chose a gay couple to foster a 3-year-old child. [18]

Transgender rightsEdit

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 1982 Italy became the third nation in the world to recognise the right to change own legal gender. Before Italy only Sweden (1972) and Germany (1980) recognise this right.

In 2006 a police officer was reportedly fired for cross-dressing in public while off duty.[19]

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.[20]

In 2005 an opposite-sex couple got married. Some years later, Alessandro, the man, decided to transition to the female sex. In 2009 Alessandro became Alessandra according to the Italian law on transsexualism (Legge 14 aprile 1982, n. 164 ). Later the couple discovered that their marriage was dissolved because the couple became a same-sex couple, even though they did not ask a Civil Court to divorce.

The Law on Transsexualism (164/1982) prescribes that when a transsexual person is married to another person the couple should divorce, but in the case of Alessandra and her wife there was no will to divorce. The couple asked the Civil Court of Modena to nullify the order of dissolvement of their marriage. On October 27, 2010, the court ruled in favour of the couple. The Italian Ministry of Interior appealed the decision and this time the Court of Appeal of Bologna reversed the trial decision.

Later the couple appealed the decision to the Court of Cassation. On June 6, 2013, the Cassation asked the Constitutional Court whether the Law on Transsexualism is unconstitutional when it orders the dissolvement of marriage by applying the Divorce Law (Legge 1 dicembre 1970, n. 898 ) even if the couple did not ask to do so. In 2014, the Constitutional Court finally ruled the case in favour of the couple, allowing them to stay married.[21]

LGBT rights groups and public campaignsEdit

  • The major national organization for LGBT rights in Italy is called Arcigay. It was founded in 1985 and is currently working on gaining some form of legal recognition for same-sex couples.
  • In 2007, an advert showing a baby wearing a wristband label that said "homosexual" caused controversy. The advert was part of a regional government campaign to combat anti-gay discrimination.[22]

Social conditionsEdit

Public opinionEdit

According to data from the 2010 Italy Eurispes report released Jan. 29, the percentage of Italians who have a positive attitude towards homosexuality and are in favor of legal recognition of gay and lesbian couples is still growing.

82% of the Italian states consider homosexuals equal to all others. 41% of citizens think that homosexual couples have the right to marry in a civil ceremony, and 20.4% agree with civil unions. In total, therefore, 61.4% are in favor of a form of legal recognition for gay and lesbian couples. This is an increase of 2.5% from last year (58.9%) and almost 10% in 7 years (51.6% in 2003). "This is further proof that the Italians are ahead of their national institutions. Our parliament hear more people and what they hear as soon approve a law that guarantees gay people the opportunity to publicly recognize their families, as is done in 20 European countries "- said the national president Aurelio Mancuso Arcigay.[23]

Italians support for gay rights 2009 2010 2012 2013 2014
recognition for same-sex couples 58.9% 61.4% 62.8% 79% -
same-sex marriage 40.4% 41% 43.9% 48% 55%
civil unions but not marriage 18.5% 20.4% 18.9% 31% -

Summary tableEdit

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (Since 1890)
Equal age of consent Yes (Since 1890)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only Yes (Since 2003)
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 marriages No (Pending)
Recognition of same-sex couples No (Pending) Though some regions allow civil unions.
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples No (Pending)
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military Yes (Since 1947)
Right to change legal gender Yes (Since 1982)
MSMs allowed to donate blood Yes (Since 2001)
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No (Illegal for all couples regardless of sexual orientation)
Access to IVF for lesbians No

LGBT history in ItalyEdit

Further information: LGBT history in Italy

Italian unification in 1860 brought together a number of States which had all (with the exception of two) abolished punishment for private, non-commercial and homosexual acts between consenting adults as a result of the Napoleonic Code.

One of 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.

With the unification, the former Kingdom of Sardinia extended its own criminalizing legislation to the rest of the newly born Kingdom of Italy. However, this legislation did not apply to the former Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, taking into account the "particular characteristics of those that lived in the south".

This bizarre 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 homosexual 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 regime of Benito Mussolini[24] and under the Italian Social Republic of 1943–45.

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 Democracy. And such attitudes have made it difficult to bring discussion of measures, for example to recognise homosexual relationships, to the parliamentary sphere.

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ State-sponsored Homophobia: A world survey of laws prohibiting same sex activity between consenting adults
  2. ^ State-sponsored Homophobia: A world survey of laws prohibiting same sex activity between consenting adults
  3. ^ Pedote, Paolo; Nicoletta Poidimani (2007). We will survive!: lesbiche, gay e trans in Italia. Mimesis Edizioni. p. 181. 
  4. ^ a b Borrillo, Daniel (2009). Omofobia. Storia e critica di un pregiudizio. Edizioni Dedalo. p. 155. 
  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 13 July 2008. 
  9. ^ "Camera affossa testo di legge su omofobia" (in Italian). Reuters. 13 October 2009. Retrieved 13 October 2009. 
  10. ^ "Omofobia, testo bocciato alla Camera E nel Pd esplode il caso Binetti" (in Italian). Corriere della Sera. 13 October 2009. Retrieved 13 October 2009. 
  11. ^ "Omofobia, la Camera affossa il testo Caos nel Pd: riesplode il caso Binetti" (in Italian). La Stampa. 13 October 2009. Retrieved 13 October 2009. 
  12. ^ "Omofobia, un terzo dei parlamentari firma la nuova proposta di legge" (in Italian). Il Messaggero. 16 May 2013. Retrieved 16 May 2013. 
  13. ^ [1]
  14. ^ "Omofobia, sì alle aggravanti. Ma è scontro nella maggioranza" (in Italian). la Repubblica. 19 September 2013. Retrieved 19 September 2013. 
  15. ^ "Italy may recognise unwed couples". BBC News. 9 February 2007. Retrieved 13 July 2008. 
  16. ^ [2]
  17. ^ "Famiglie gay, Cassazione: “Un bambino può crescere bene”". il Fatto Quotidiano. 11 January 2013. Retrieved 15 November 2013. 
  18. ^ "Bologna segue la Cassazione: bimba di tre anni in affido a una coppia gay". Corriere di Bologna. 15 November 2013. Retrieved 15 November 2013. 
  19. ^ "Cross-dressing Italian cop given the boot". UPI. 29 December 2006. 
  20. ^ "Luxuria: "Ora la sinistra mi critica ma vado avanti"" (in Italian). il Giornale. 25 November 2008. Retrieved 13 October 2009. 
  21. ^ Nadeau, Barbie Latza (16 June 2014). "Italian Transgender Ruling Gives Green Light to Civil Unions". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 20 February 2015. 
  22. ^ "Gay newborn poster sparks row in Italy". Reuters. 25 October 2007. 
  23. ^ "La regolamentazione delle coppie di fatto" (in Italian). Corriere della Sera. 15 May 2009. 
  24. ^ (Italian) L’omosessualità in Italia