Italian mayor refuses to officiate civil unions

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A protest in favour of civil unions earlier this year. Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP
12:07 CEST+02:00
A mayor in a northern Italian town has refused to officiate a civil union - but says his actions aren't a "challenge" to the recently-passed law legalizing same-sex unions.

“Why can’t a mayor be a conscientious objector?” asks Serafino Ferrino, mayor of Favria in Turin, home to around 5,000 people.

Ferrino, who is a practising Catholic, refused to officiate a civil union between two men in his municipality, according to local media.

“This law is an error and I don’t see why a mayor should be obligated to respect it, going against his own ethical principles," he said, adding that he was sure many other mayors were in the same position, La Stampa reported on Monday.

The couple in question aren't resident in Favria, but hoped to celebrate their union there next March.

Not only has Ferrino refused to officiate the ceremony himself, but he has also refused to nominate another person to officiate it instead.

Now, the couple has two choices: either they can get their civil union in another town, or the union can go ahead in Favria without the mayor's involvement, with the head of the registry office officiating instead.

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While Ferrino is unable to stop civil unions taking place in his town, the law which legalized same-sex unions did not make provisions for "conscientious objection" on the part of local officials, and it is unclear if the mayor is in breach of his duties by doing so.

A statement from the Five Star Movement political party said: "We remind the mayor that, once elected, it is his duty to guarantee the respect of the rights sanctioned by the Constitution and by law, which does not call for objections of conscience."

The coordinator of the Turin Pride, Alessandro Battaglia, told La Stampa that "the mayor’s harassing and homophobic intentions are clear," and added that his organization was prepared to take legal action to protect the citizens' rights if necessary.

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