Historical day for Naples as it transcribes first civil union
By Florence Brock
Naples –In a packed Sala Giunta at City Hall, Danilo di Leo and Antonello Sannino exchanged their vows before guests, spectators and camera flashes yesterday, marking Naples’ first official recognition of same sex marriages.
Mayor Luigi de Magistris celebrated the male couple’s civil union in a touching ceremony that many feel is way overdue.
After becoming the last European country to pass legislation on civil unions and same sex marriages June 6th of this year, Italy has finally opened registrars to civil unions.
Thanks to the Cirinnà law, the southern metropolis’ hosted the first same sex marriage, legally recognizing the union of the President of Arcigay Napoli and the San Carlo Theater dancer.
Although Naples is the European city with the greatest number of resident transsexuals and has been declared San Francisco’s sister city for human rights, the city has had to be patient in opening its arms to the long awaited civil rights given to Italian citizens.
After some bureaucratic delays, the September ceremony was set in coincidence with the anniversary of the downfall of the church and the subsequent beginning of secularism in Italian democratic institutions.
Partners for the last six years with typical ups and downs familiar to all couples, the two have been living together for the last few months in their hometown of Torre Annunziata in the Naples province.
“We were together in Rome during the protests outside the Senate during the discussion over legislation approval and we occupied the square for almost 24 hours,” explains the President of Arcigay Naples. “I think maybe Danilo and I decided to marry in that very moment, feeling as though, the law somehow belonged to us as well,” he concludes.
Although Italy is the last founding country of the European Community to have approved the law, the Campania capital has long since shown tolerance and is even culturally referred to as the city of ‘feminèlli’ (effeminate homosexuals).
Characteristically feminine in appearance, feminèlli have held a place in Naples culture and they continue living in harmony throughout many of the popular neighborhoods in the city.
In large part respected, feminèlli are often considered good luck and are asked to participate in games of fortune like Tombola or even given a new born child to hold in their arms for the infant’s lucky future.
February 2nd of each year, thousands of feminèlli partake in a pilgrimage on Candelora Day to pay tribute to the Madonna Montevirgine who, legend has it, saved two men from death when tied to a tree and abandoned there for their impure acts back in 1256.
Documented sources also report the first unofficial gay wedding took place in Parthenope city back in 1978 when the nation was far from considering legislation like the Cirinnà Law. Without scandals or public protests, the progressive event was broadcasted on RAI television.
There has nonetheless been hostility against the new law in the north. Cities have recurred to being ‘conscientious objectors’ and tried not to perform unions. Courts however, have already proclaimed attempts to obstruct the law as illegal; cities cannot refuse to celebrate the laic unions.
During discussions on the law approval, supporters demonstrated in cities all around the country. While Naples illuminated a rainbow in its main square as a sign of solidarity, the Pirellone building at the Regione Lombardia in Milano was illuminated in support of Family Day.
As a spokesperson for LGBTQ rights, Sannino recognizes there is still much work to be done.
According to the leader of Arcigay Naples, are three main legal areas to be tackled in Italy.
Firstly, the Cirinnà Law does not include same sex child adoption. Although Luigi De Magistris has transcribed the birth of Ruben, son of two moms legally married in Spain, it’s time to pass legislation giving a child the right to his existence in same sex families.
Secondly, a law needs to be passed against homophobia. All minority groups are currently legally protected against discrimination under the Mancino Law except LGBTQs.
Thirdly, transsexuals must have the right to self-determined their own identity without state imposition. As the state recognizes the new identity of a transsexual only subsequent to a complete sex change, involving often times life-threatening surgery, LBGTQs seek recognition of their own declared gender. Such determination would facilitate problems in seeking health assistance in the right hospital ward and exercising the right to vote.
Socially, the country needs to implement information and support programs. “Currently, Ministerial data is reaching dramatic proportions,” declares the president. “The one third to half of the teenagers who commit suicide do so due to problems tied to sexual identity crises,” he states sadly, adding: “more than being homophobic, this country is sex-phobic; we don’t speak enough about sex. Although it’s hard to believe, it’s still taboo in schools.”
While the state slows down progress and civil rights with bureaucracy, no one can stop this long overdue benchmark law from changing Italy forever.