Rome mayor celebrates first same-sex civil union in city

"A new couple and a new family are being born,” Raggi says.

Mayor Virginia Raggi has celebrated the first gay civil union in Rome since a controversial law legally recognising civil unions between same-sex couples entered into force in June.

The representative of the opposition Movimento Cinque Stelle (M5S) joined Francisco Raffaele Villarusso, 43, and Luca De Sario, 30, in a civil union on 17 September in the Red Room of the Campidoglio, one of four premises made available by the city council for civil wedding ceremonies in Rome.

“I wish you a long and fun union,” she said. “I hope you overcome the obstacles that life puts in front of you. This is the challenge facing you, go forward with your head held high and with determination and enjoy yourselves,” Raggi added.

Italy’s parliament gave definitive backing to the bill on civil unions between same-sex couples in May this year after years of controversy and false starts.

The new law fills a major legislative vacuum, since Italy was the only country in western Europe not to allow marriage or civil partnerships for gay couples.

It extends to committed same-sex couples some of the rights and obligations that have until now been the prerogative of heterosexual married couples, as well as introducing new rights and protections for unmarried cohabiting couples including gays.

However, it is a much watered-down version of the proposal that first came before parliament, after opposition from junior government partner Nuovo Centro Destra led by interior minister Angelino Alfano forced prime minister Matteo Renzi to drop a key clause allowing partners in a civil union to adopt each other’s biological children.

Renzi subsequently said so-called ‘stepchild adoptions’ would be introduced in a comprehensive overhaul of Italy’s complicated and slow-moving adoptions system before the end of the current parliament.

Civil unions between same-sex couples have already been celebrated in Milan, Turin and Bologna and other smaller towns and cities across the country.

Laura Clarke