Gay Kiwi barred from moving to Italy wins $30,000 in damages

By Alicia Burrow

Doug McCall, left, and his partner Roberto Taddeucci are "ecstatic" over the news. Photo / Supplied
Doug McCall, left, and his partner Roberto Taddeucci are "ecstatic" over the news. Photo / Supplied

A same-sex couple is celebrating a landmark ruling today after the Italian Government refused a Kiwi man residence with his partner in Italy.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled the Italian Government was discriminatory when it didn't allow Douglas McCall and Roberto Taddeucci to move from Auckland to Italy, and ordered the government to pay them more than $30,000 in damages.

The Italian Government attached immigration rights to marriage, but same-sex marriages or civil unions don't yet exist in the country.

Mr McCall said he and his partner were "ecstatic" at the news.

He said the Italian Government was now looking into civil unions and he hoped their case would pave the way for other couples in other countries.

Mr McCall said it was an incredibly stressful 13-year battle.

"It's really tough when you're told you're not family and you're not being discriminated against when you know you are because you can't do the same things a heterosexual couple can."

Mr McCall, now 57, met Mr Taddeucci, now 50, in 1999 while on holiday in Spain and the romance blossomed from there. The two moved to Auckland and lived there until 2003 when they decided to begin a life back in Italy.

Mr McCall applied to stay in the country through a de facto visa in 2004 after studying in Italy for a year, which a local court in Florence granted.

The victory was short-lived: the Italian Government appealed the decision and another court date was set.

The fight went all the way to the Corte di Cassazione (Palace of Justice) in Rome before it was taken up by the European Court of Human Rights.

New laws then threatened Mr McCall with a criminal conviction so they were forced to move to another European country that recognised de facto visa documents the couple had from New Zealand.

They had to live away from Roberto's family in Italy so chose to move to the Netherlands, A same-sex couple is celebrating a landmark ruling today after the Italian Government refused a Kiwi man residence with his partner in Italy.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled the Italian Government was discriminatory when it didn't allow Douglas McCall and Roberto Taddeucci to move from Auckland to Italy, and ordered the government to pay them more than $30,000 in damages.

The Italian Government attached immigration rights to marriage, but same-sex marriages or civil unions don't yet exist in the country.

Mr McCall said he and his partner were "ecstatic" at the news, which came after an incredibly stressful 13-year battle.

"It's really tough when you're told you're not family and you're not being discriminated against when you know you are because you can't do the same things a heterosexual couple can."

He said the money was a bonus, but the ruling was the most important part of the process.

"More than getting the [$30,000], it's been the recognition that we were discriminated against when we were told that we weren't that is the more powerful thing to us, but it's also nice to get a small settlement."

"We're an older couple, so we lost a lot of chances and opportunity when other couples were buying property and doing things together, we didn't have that security. So this will help us to regain some of that."

The Italian Government passed a law in May 2016 that would grant same sex couples many of the same legal rights as heterosexual couples - but Mr McCall said it hasn't been enacted yet.

Mr McCall, now 57, met Mr Taddeucci, now 50, in 1999 while on holiday in Spain and the romance blossomed from there. The two moved to Auckland and lived there until 2003 when they decided to begin a life back in Italy.

Mr McCall applied to stay in the country through a de facto visa in 2004 after studying in Italy for a year, which a local court in Florence granted.

The victory was short-lived: the Italian Government appealed the decision and another court date was set.

The fight went all the way to the Corte di Cassazione (Palace of Justice) in Rome before it was taken up by the European Court of Human Rights.

New laws then threatened Mr McCall with a criminal conviction so they were forced to move to another European country that recognised de facto visa documents the couple had from New Zealand.

They had to live away from Mr Taddeucci's family in Italy so chose to move to the Netherlands, where they bought a home and began a staffing recruitment company.

In today's statement, the ECHR said the Italian ruling was a "restrictive interpretation of the concept of a family member".

"The state had breached the applicants' rights not to be subjected to discrimination based on sexual orientation in the enjoyment of their rights under Article 8 of the Convention."

Auckland Barrister Marie Dyhrberg QC has been supporting Mr McCall and Mr Taddeucci since day one and said the case set a precedent that would bring other countries into line.

She said it paved the way for lawyers and couples to demand the same rights.

She said it took a lot of courage to stay in litigation for so long, especially when it affected someone's life so dramatically.

"In your heart you say this cannot be right, it is unjust, and when you see a victory like this you feel that eventually they do get there and it's gratifying to see."

Mr McCall and Mr Taddeucci remain in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, with their recruitment company. The ruling will become definitive in three months if none of the parties appeal.

Mr McCall said the Italian Government was now looking into civil unions and he hoped their case would pave the way for other couples in other countries.

He said the ruling was in line with other European Court of Human Rights decisions, and because of the court's wide jurisdiction, he hoped the ruling would stretch across to Russia and the Middle East.

- Newstalk ZB

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