Italian court orders town to recognize gay couple married abroad

ROME Thu Apr 10, 2014 11:44am EDT

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ROME (Reuters) - An Italian court has ordered a town to recognize the marriage of a gay couple who were wed in the United States, a move that advocates of gay marriage, which is not allowed in Italy, hailed as a first step toward legality.

In a decision announced late on Wednesday, the court in the Tuscan city of Grosseto said the town hall had to transcribe the marriage into its records, giving the two men the same rights as a heterosexual married couple.

"This is a unique precedent for our country," said Sergio Lo Giudice, a senator and past president of Italy's leading gay rights group Arcigay. "It is the first time that a gay marriage has been recognized in Italy."

Grosseto's state prosecutors' office said on Thursday it would challenge the ruling. "We have decided to appeal; I am preparing our case and it will be presented next week," said chief prosecutor Francesco Verusio.

The couple, Stefano Bucci, 57, and Stefano Chigiotti, 68, were married in New York in 2012 and sued Grosseto city hall after an official there refused to transcribe the marriage into its registers.

The court ruled that there was no legal obstacle to the recognition of a gay marriage performed in a country where it is legal.

"Politicians should take note," said Fabrizio Marrazzo of the Gay Center rights group. "This opens a new chapter for gay couples in Italy."

The Catholic Church, which still holds considerable sway over politics in Italy, is opposed to gay marriage.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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