Italy sticks out in Europe, and not just geographically. With Ireland's historic adoption of same-sex marriage, quickly followed by Greenland, Italy is now one of the last major Western European countries without any legal recognition of gay and lesbian couples. A recent poll found that 75% of the overwhelmingly Catholic country support recognition of same-sex unions, with 48% believing that marriage equality should be legal. Progress has failed to gain headway, however, which recently led openly gay Minister Ivan Scalfarotto to go on a hunger strike.
The 49-year-old junior minister said that he was inspired to take such a drastic step from a letter he recieved from a man, Caesar, whose partner of 20 years, Stephen, was diagnosed with cancer last year. Because they were unable to share health insurance, the couple were unable to afford the costly chemotherapy, and Stephan died last week.
On his blog, Scalfarotto said:
"I decided to not eat food until we have certainty on the day that this grave human rights violation ends in this country."
"The world has moved forward by leaps and bounds: from the Irish referendum on the ruling of the Supreme Court of the United States, we learned that gay rights – in the Western world – are considered full human rights. That equality between citizens is a universal value. That love can not be measured in weight, because love is love."
"I am openly asking for the support of many people who thought that if they just waited, things will eventually turn out to be better... Because for some, like Stephen, the times runs out. It’s no longer enough."
Of the countries that Italy borders, France has marriage equality, and Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, and Croatia have some form of civil union. Even Germany, who made headlines recently when Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted that marriage equality was not on her government's agenda, recognizes civil unions.