Italy’s marriage laws challenged before European Court of Human Rights
What’s at Stake:
Promoting marriage as between one man and one woman
Italy’s laws on marriage are not unusual, nor are they ambiguous. Along with over 90 per cent of the world, Italy defines marriage as the union of two people of the opposite sex. But six same-sex couples are now challenging Italy’s position on marriage in the European Court of Human Rights.
Between 2002 and 2011, the couples had all entered into same-sex “marriages” in countries or jurisdictions that allowed it, such as Canada, the Netherlands, and California. They then tried to register their “marriages” in the Italian system. Given the clarity of Italy’s view that marriage can only be between a man and a woman, it was unsurprising when their attempts failed.
Italy’s laws on marriage have been affirmed repeatedly. Article 29 of the Italian Constitution has been interpreted as meaning a marriage between persons of the opposite sex. And in 2001, the Ministry of Internal Affairs confirmed that a same-sex “marriage” contracted abroad could not be registered in the Italian system.
Despite the clarity of Italy’s position and failed attempts in the country’s courts, the couples are taking their case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), hoping that it will override Italy’s position on marriage. But even here, their chances are not good: the Court has previously ruled that there is no right to same-sex “marriage” under the European Convention on Human Rights.
In February 2014, the Court gave permission to ADF International to submit legal arguments that defend the exclusivity of marriage as between one man and one woman. ADF International senior legal counsel Paul Coleman said: “The people of Italy recognize that men and women bring distinct, irreplaceable gifts to family life, especially for children who deserve both a mother and a father. The European Court of Human Rights must allow Italy to define marriage in a manner consistent with this truth.”
Our Role in the Case
ADF International was given permission to present legal arguments to the European Court of Human Rights and argued that there is a compelling interest in defining marriage exclusively between one man and one woman.