The northern city of Padua in the Veneto regions the first Italian city officially to recognise de facto couples, both heterosexual and homosexual.

The predominantly centre-left city council passed a motion this week that will make it possible for de facto couples to obtain a certificate recognising them as a family on the basis of ties of affection. Although the certificate has no juridical standing it is considered by many to be of important symbolic significance.

The proposal was put forward by councillor Alessandro Zan, who is also the president of the lesbian and homosexual rights movement Arcigay Veneto, and was approved by 26 votes in favour, seven against and one abstained vote.

Civil rights and protection of homosexual couples is a theme that is, ever so slowly, climbing the ropes of Italian politics, said Zan.

The motion has caused an outcry among right-wing political circles, which fear the possible consequences on a national level.