The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Italy is violating the human rights of gay and lesbian couples by not offering them any legal recognition.
In contrast to most other major European nations, not only is same-sex marriage not legal in Italy, but same-sex couples are also not given any access to legal protection, such as civil unions or partnerships.
On Tuesday, the court found that this situation violates Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
“A civil union or registered partnership would be the most appropriate way for same-sex couples like the applicants to have their relationship legally recognised,” said the court in a press release.
The court previously found that the relationship of a cohabiting same-sex couple living in a stable partnership is considered to be “family life”.
The court ordered Italy to pay each of the applicants 5,000 euros in damages and to also pay the costs and expenses of some of the applicants (amounts between 5,000 and 10,000 euros).
Enrico Oliari, president of gay rights group GayLib and one of applicants, commented that he was “delighted” by the ruling.
“We arrived at this conclusion at the end of a battle that began 18 years ago with our association and an eight-year fight in the courtroom,” he said in a statement.
Over the last 20 years numerous bills to recognise same-sex relationships have been rejected by the Italian Parliament in large part due to opposition from the Catholic Church.
Some Italian cities have allowed local gay and lesbian couples to register their unions as well as recognising couples who have legally tied the knot in other countries, but this is largely symbolic.
In February, Italy’s highest court ruled that Italy’s constitution does not give same-sex couples the automatic right to marriage equality. It did, however, confirm they must be granted the same protections under the law as other unmarried cohabiting couples.