Italians in civil unions face bureaucratic woes

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Supporters of same sex marriage protesting earlier this year. Photo: AFP
09:26 CEST+02:00
When the Italian government finally voted in a bill approving civil unions back in May, it was hailed as a historic achievement.

Italy became the last major western European country to accept same sex unions, but lawmakers also faced criticism for what was not included; a controversial stepchild-adoption clause, and any reference to 'fidelity' for example.

READ MORE: Why not everyone is happy with Italy's civil unions bill

Now it has emerged that gay couples may also be in for bureaucratic problems after having a civil union.

Problems occur if a couple decides to combine each of their surnames rather than selecting one as a common 'family name'. Double-barrelling after civil unions is viewed by the system as a 'name change', meaning their codice fiscale (the Italian tax code) is automatically changed.

This can have far-reaching consequences because the process of name-changing is subject to rigorous controls in Italy, usually only allowed if the person is under police protection, for example, if they have a sex change, or if they can prove that their current name causes them extreme "shame or humiliation".

For gay couples who have a civil union, however, it is as simple as a cross on a form - meaning many won't realize the consequences.

Because the seemingly innocuous name-change amounts to a change of identity under Italian law, couples who combine their names will have to get new passports, insurance and identity cards, as well as re-applying for social security benefits, La Repubblica first reported.

In addition, their employers might have difficulty sending their salary, and parents will face the added complications of finding themselves with a different surname to their child.

"We have no idea about the number of couples who will be affected by this procedure," Silvia Casassa from LGBT rights organization Famiglie Arcobaleno (Rainbow Families) told The Local. "I believe that at least 10,000 homosexual couples in Italy have had civil unions, but that's just an estimate."

Casassa said many of the over 300 couples who are members of Famiglie Arcobaleno had had civil unions, and the organization is trying to make its members aware of the complications.

"The Italian government needs to offer clarity when the final decree is issued. For now, those having a civil union should take care to ask not to change their name."

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"And just to think, if they had given us the right to get married, this would all have been much easier..." Casassa added.

The first civil unions were performed from the Ferragosto bank holiday (August 15th) onwards.

An article in Catholic journal La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana wrote: "We must remember that taking the surname of the partner is an optional choice. People are crying about a problem they've caused themselves."

Howvever, there are no consequences for married heterosexual couples should they choose to combine their surnames, whose 'family name' is simply added alongside their maiden name on identity documents; after marriage, this is viewed as an addition rather than a change in name and so doesn't bring the same bureaucratic complications.

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