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U.S. gay-marriage rulings praised and chided in Italy

'Now we can free ourselves from the Middle Ages' says Vendola

U.S. gay-marriage rulings praised and chided in Italy

Rome, June 27 - A pair of decisions by the United States Supreme Court Wednesday - one that entitled married same-sex couples to federal benefits and another that effectively legalized gay marriage in California - was widely praised but also criticized in Italy on Thursday. "They are celebrating my own emotions. The ruling of the Supreme Court overtakes with incredible speed the unbelievable hesitations and the slowness of politics and legislators in different parts of the world," said Puglia Governor Nichi Vendola, who heads the left-wing SEL party. "Italy now has the right to emancipate itself from the Middle Ages," he added, referring to the fact that Italy does not recognize gay marriage. The decisions were also lauded by Deputy Labour Minister Maria Cecilia Guerra, who called it "a great step forward towards the recognition of equal opportunities". "It's a historic ruling," she added, "because it helps us understand that we could never have overcome the inequalities and the homophobia that still carry so much weight in our society until it is the very law itself that, by discriminating, justifies them". In a five-four ruling, US Supreme Court justices rejected a federal law that defined marriage as legal only when it is between a man and a woman. The court said that the law, known as the Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA), was unconstitutional, as it violated the Fifth Amendment that defends individual freedom. The decision, which means married gay men and women are entitled to the same federal benefits as straight married couples, is seen as an historic victory for the gay community in the US. The ruling does not affect the bans on same-sex marriage in 30 US states. The Supreme Court followed the decision by declining to decide a case on California's ban on same-sex marriage known as Proposition 8. Since the court said circumstances made it powerless to decide, a court victory for two same-sex couples who had tried to marry was untouched. The decisions also had their detractors in Italy, such as Maurizio Sacconi, a Senator from ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi's center-right People of Freedom (PdL) party. "Many people who don't even want to import Coca-Cola from the US now want to adopt marriage for all," he posted on Twitter. "I drink Coca-Cola, but I refuse the US's death penalty and its gay marriage".

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