As relatives, friends, and well-wishers applauded, two Italian men exchanged a long kiss and two gold rings Monday in front of the French consulate in Rome. The men had just registered their union under a French law that gives broad legal rights to gay couples. Alessio De Giorgi, 33, and French-born Christian Panicucci, 37, were able to sign France's civil solidarity pact because Panicucci also has French citizenship. The union is not binding in Italy, which does not recognize unions between unmarried couples, including gays. Neither France nor Italy recognizes same-sex marriages.
"Today is a great day of love, but it's also a political day," said Panicucci, who, dressed in a charcoal-color suit and peach-color necktie, dodged handfuls of rice thrown at the couple by dozens of well-wishers. "It crowns a 10-year-long relationship of mutual respect and love," added De Giorgi, before a horse-drawn carriage took the couple to Rome's Piazza Farnese, where a toast in their honor was held in front of the French embassy. Italian gay rights activists are pushing for Italy's parliament to adopt provisions similar to the French, which allows couples to file--after three years together--joint tax forms, forces employers to take couples' joint vacation plans into account, and makes couples accountable for each other's debts.
Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe, who is gay, sent the couple a congratulatory note. "We have to hope that lawmakers will adopt, quite rapidly, a similar law also in Italy," said Delanoe, who is recovering from a stab wound suffered earlier this month during an all-night celebration at City Hall in Paris. The suspect in the attack has told investigators that he stabbed the mayor because he dislikes homosexuals and politicians.