(Italy has recognised same-sex civil unions since 5 June 2016, providing same-sex couples with most of the legal protections enjoyed by married couples.)
Where and when did you two meet?
S: We met in Sicily, Catania 17 years ago. We had coffee and everything started in a very simple way. I think we met each other at the right time in our lives and here we are today!
M: I still remember the Tshirt you were wearing the day we met.
S: Which was?
M: Looney toons (laughs)
Are your families accepting of your relationship?
Our families are very accepting which, I have to say, is not everyone’s case here in Italy.
Family is sacred but so is religion. So being gay and religious don’t always go hand in hand for many people unfortunately. But our families are very happy for us and they love us the way we are.
I think we can say that they are happy if we are happy, so if they see that we love each other and we enjoy our lives, they’ll just be happy.
What is your favourite characteristic about each other?
S: Mario is someone who is calm and he manages to make me feel better. I’m too energetic so he balances that out for me.
M: I love that he’s so unpredictable. He’s a creative person and full of pure energy. We complete each other and that’s beautiful.
S: Mario is really messy and especially when he comes from abroad with his suitcase.
M: I’m not sure what his worst characteristic would be. Maybe the fact that he likes to tidy my things it drives me nuts. But at the end of the day we really complete each other. He accepts some of my chaos and I accept his moments where everything needs to be tidied and spotless.
But love is about compromise, right?
What would you say is your favorite common memory?
S: Our favourite memory together was a trip to Mexico, Tulum for our honeymoon. The beaches in Tulum are fantastic and the nature is mind-blowing.
M: We would wake up in the morning and see all the birds and animals. We also felt a true sense of freedom and the people were very welcoming.
Who proposed to who? And where did you get ‘married’?
S: I proposed to Mario. In Italy we cannot say ‘husband’ we must say ‘partner’ as we only have the civil partnership status. I proposed in a hotel while we were on holidays in New York.
It felt like it was the right place and the right time to propose.
We got married two years ago in Rome. We were one of the first couple to officially get married and it was something special to us.
It’s a basic right. We are now officially seen as a family but we’ve been family to each other for 17 years now.
Are Italians surprised to see two men together?
M: Yes, sometimes people are surprised to see us eat at a romantic restaurant or go to places together such as the cinema. You can see that it’s still not something seen as ‘common’ or ‘usual’ so people are obviously curious and we don’t blame them for it. Hopefully with time, gay couples will be able to live more freely and openly.
S: Also when we came to Rome, we moved from a legal point of view so we had to do the papers in order to live here. When we went through registration, the woman who did the paperwork put my name and then Mario’s name and although we were registered as a couple, there was some flag in the system and she couldn’t put two male names. She was embarrassed and felt really sorry for us as she was ashamed that the system hadn’t been updated but it just shows that this is recent and things will start changing progressively.
How did you react when Italy passed the civil union law for gay couples ?
When Italy voted YES for civil union in February 2016, we were very happy and for us it was a great start. We were in the centre of Rome when the law passed. I was happy overall but I knew that there were some points in this law that need to be fixed and improved.
Santi and I say we are “married” but the reality is not “marriage” - we are ‘civil partners’ which means that we don’t have all the same rights as a married couple.
We laughed at one piece of the law that stated that the difference between the ‘civil partnership’ and a ‘marriage’ is that you don’t have to be faithful to your partner. How absurd is that? What do they imply it? That we cannot commit to one person?! We still don’t understand what they mean.
What do you have to say about LGBT+ rights in Italy?
S:.There is still a lot to work to be done. We need to evolve as a society and make laws to protect us.
Mario for example is working for a company who is 100% compliant with LGBT rights, so LGBT people have the same rights, benefits, and everything than straight people. But not all companies treat their gay employees this way, especially for people who are working for small organizations or industries.
But the change in culture needs to start from the government and the laws. I think society is ready to accept it but we need to have the law to back us up.
Why do you think Italy is behind in terms of LGBT rights ?
I think religion is one of the main reasons as to why Italy is still behind in terms of LGBT rights. Not many laws are being passed for LGBT people because of the pressure coming from the Church.
However, the new generation is probably not going to have the same problems and the same struggles as us and I think things will evolve positively for our community in the upcoming years.
Have you ever thought of leaving Italy to get married?
No, despite all of this we love our country. We don’t like the idea to travel to get the ‘real’ marriage. We want to stay here and wait for the new law to pass.
We prefer to be active here and fight for equal marriage for all.