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  • Support for same-sex marriage is growing in Europe.

    Support for same-sex marriage is growing in Europe. | Photo: Reuters

Published 27 May 2015

There is renewed enthusiasm in Italy and Germany for equal marriage after Ireland becomes the first country to legalize it by popular vote.

Less than a week after Ireland voted ‘Yes’ to same-sex marriage, Italy and Germany are taking steps in the same direction.

Prominent gay rights campaigner and leader of the green party Nichi Vendola said the Irish gave a “lesson in civility,” and minister of constitutional reforms, Maria Elena Boschi talked about a “battle for civility.”

Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi said he would push for civil unions as a first step, supported by many members of his Democratic Party - but opposition is fierce in the Catholic country where the Church still has an heavy influence. The Vatican’s state secretary, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who is second to the Pope, talked Tuesday of a “defeat for humanity.”

Italy is now the only Western European country that does not recognize either same-sex marriage or civil unions. A bill put forward by Sen. Monica Cirinna in March was approved by the Justice Committee and declared constitutional - but it has already received thousands of amendments, mostly submitted by centre-right parliamentarians.

In spite of such strong political opposition, it is thought public opinion in Italy has already shifted and that a referendum held today would have the same positive outcome as it did in Ireland.

Laura Boldrini, president of the Chamber of Deputies, added her support on Twitter.

Translation: “Another push from Ireland. It’s time Italy had its law on civil unions. To be European means to recognize rights.”

Germany, where civil unions have been legal for same-sex couples since 2001, is the only other Western European country to lag behind on marriage. Campaigners there are hoping the change in Ireland’s law will lead to progress in their country, where polls suggest three quarters of the population support marriage equality.

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The German Greens on Sunday appealed to Chancellor Angela Merkel to follow the momentum and give same-sex couples more rights through marriage than they have through civil unions. Nils Schmid, head of the Social Democrats in Germany, is calling for a referendum.

“The people of Germany should also be able to decide on same-sex marriage,” he said. “My personal position is clear: there is no first or second-class love.”

Calls within Merkel’s own party, the Christian Democratic Union, are growing louder. Parliamentarian Stefan Kaufmann said the center-right should be reflecting on the issue.

“Recognizing same-sex marriage would have symbolic value for many homosexual lovers and far beyond,” he said.

Jens Spahn, a member of the party’s executive committee said public support for same-sex marriages was important.

“One should be thinking: what the Catholic Irish can do, we can do too,” he said.

Green Party Leader Katrin Goring-Eckardt said Merkel could not ignore the debate any longer and said it was “time.”

On Tuesday, Greenland became the latest country to legalize same-sex marriage and gay adoption. Part of the Kingdom of Denmark but self-governing since 2009, the nation had already adopted Denmark’s civil unions law in 1996. Voting Tuesday, a majority of 27 parliament members (two abstentions) approved the new bill which will come into effect in October.

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