The Italian Almanac

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lesbian kiss

My Darling Valentine

Gay and lesbian couples are being asked to celebrate Valentine`s Day by kissing while waiting for traffic lights to change. Gay rights group Arcigay said the Crossing Kisses initiative is aimed at ``giving visibility to all types of love`` and drawing attention to the absence of legal rights for homosexual couples in Italy. ``We have heard promises of all kinds from ministers and politicians from all parties, but the reality is that for the Italian state, a gay or lesbian family that has shared love and daily life for years is composed of two perfect strangers,`` said Arcigay President Aurelio Mancuso. ``At this point Italy is the only European country where homosexual couples have no kind of legal recognition,`` he added.

Gay couples are ready to pucker up at the lights in many of Italy`s largest cities, including Genoa, Bologna, Florence, Rome and Naples. In addition to the Crossing Kisses campaign, local Arcigay branches across the country are organising their own Valentine`s initiatives, including a singles party in a supermarket in Bari and a `Lovers Without Rights` torchlit procession in Perugia. In Rome, gay couples will stage a mass kiss-in a few steps from the Colosseum in Via San Giovanni in Laterano, known as Rome`s Gay Street. ``We have invited everyone to Gay Street to publicly reconfirm their love on St Valentine`s Day, when gay couples are forced to celebrate without any legal recognition,`` said Rome Arcigay President Fabrizio Marrazzo.

In 2007, outraged gay rights accused police of discrimination after they arrested a homosexual couple who had been kissing in front of the Colosseum. Police said the couple had been engaged in oral sex, which would have led to arrest whether the couple concerned had been gay or heterosexual. Cohabiting homosexual and heterosexual couples in Italy are currently unable to obtain financial and `next of kin` rights if their loved one dies, is seriously ill or is sent to prison. Such couples currently have no shared rights to social benefits, property and inheritance - a situation which critics say is increasingly anomalous in a European state.

The former centre-left government attempted to pass new laws to give couples these rights but failed to get them through parliament in the face of fierce opposition from centre-right politicians and the Catholic Church.