The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that same-sex couples must be allowed to be legally recognised. In a landmark ruling on Monday, the court said that Italy’s failure to provide any form of legal recognition for same-sex couples violated Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights – the right to respect for private and family life.

Although the ruling is only legally binding on Italy, there are 22 other countries in the Council of Europe which do not legally acknowledge same-sex unions in any way. The judgment noted that the Italian Constitutional Court had previously pointed out the need to recognise same-sex couples in a 2010 case, and that promises by successive governments to act on the issue have come to nothing.

The court’s judgement urged the Italian government to introduce civil unions or registered partnership to resolve the inequality, and pointed out that 24 of the 47 Council of Europe member states provide same-sex couples with protection and recognition.

Paulo Corte-Real, Co-Chair of ILGA Europe, said: ‘This judgment is a call for immediate action in Italy. The groundswell of positive public opinion and political support that was so evident in Italy following the Irish marriage equality referendum led to the promise of the long-anticipated partnership bill before the summer. We were very disappointed to see it delayed until the parliament returns in the autumn. This decision makes it clear that Italian politicians must act swiftly – and decisively.’