The applicants were several same-sex couples living in Italy who wished to conclude marriage, but were precluded from doing it, as the national law only allowed marriage between persons of opposite sex.
The applicants complained that they had no means of legally safeguarding their relationship, as it was impossible to enter into any type of civil union. That has violated their right to private and family life protected under the Article 8 of the Convention.
The Court reiterated that the relationship of a same-sex couple, such as those of the applicants, falls within the notion of “private life” within the meaning of Article 8. Similarly, the relationship of a cohabiting same-sex couple living in a stable de facto partnership falls within the notion of “family life”. It added that the right to private and family life may also impose on a State certain positive obligations to ensure effective respect for these rights, such as adoption of necessary measures.
It was found by the Court that the applicants had no opportunity to enter into a civil union or registered partnership. Nonetheless, as same-sex couples are as able to form a relationship as different-sex couples, also same-sex couples are in need of legal recognition and protection of their relationship.
The Court pointed out that there was a big amount of homosexuals living in Italy and same-sex relationships were generally accepted by the society. Thus, there existed a 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. Additionally, also several judicial bodies in Italy had called for some legal protection of same-sex couples.
Because of these reasons, the Court found that the State had failed to fulfil its positive obligation to ensure a specific legal framework providing for the recognition and protection of same-sex couples. Therefore, Article 8 of the Convention had been violated.