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Landmark decision in Oliairi and Others v Italy: Discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation

24 July 2015

A landmark judgment from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) was handed down on 21 July 2015 in Oliairi and Others v Italy (application no. 18766/11 and 36030/11).

The case concerned three homosexual couples who argued that they were being discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation because Italian legislation did not allow for the possibility for homosexual couples to get married or enter into any other type of civil union. They alleged that this infringed their rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights – their right to respect for privacy and family life.  

The ECtHR found a violation of the Appellants Article 8 rights in a ground-breaking judgment not just for Italy, but for all of Europe. The AIRE Centre intervened in the case, along with ILGA-Europe, FIDH, ECSOL and UFTDU and warmly welcomes the judgment of the ECtHR, as this is the first time that the Court has recognised the right of same-sex unions to be legally recognised.

The Court also pointed out that 24 of the 47 Council of Europe member states provide same-sex couples with protection and recognition and that the Italian Constitutional Court had repeatedly called for such protection and recognition.  The Chamber highlighted the conflict between the social reality of the applicants, who for the most part lived their relationship openly in Italy, and the law, which gave them no official recognition and urged the Italian government to introduce civil unions or registered partnership to solve this inequality.

While the Oliari judgment is only legally binding on Italy, it signals a significant evolution in the ECtHR approach which now affirms the right of same-sex unions to be officially recognised. LGBT rights campaigners believe that this could be the push needed for the remaining Council of Europe states to speed up reforms and grant equal rights to same-sex couples. 


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