Alberto Mattia Serafin

The Secularization of Italian Marital Law from the Pisanelli Code (1865) to the Cirinnà Law (No. 76/2016): Back to the Start?


Italy represents a unique situational context to assess the relationship between, on the one hand, marriage, civil unions and registered partnerships (as well as connected aspects like separation and divorce) and, on the other, the ever-growing evolution of social, cultural, economic and religious customs and traditions. In this conference, I will start the analysis from art. 156 of the 1865 Italian Civil Code, which explicitly defined marriage as a «contract», thus extending the ius connubii to laic couples. This «contractual» qualification, borrowed from the French Code Civil (1804), was perfectly compliant with the «deconfessionalization» carried on by the «separatist» – uti cives or uti fideles – liberal thought of that time. If the current Civil Code (1942) was somehow influenced by such principles, notwithstanding the fact that in the meantime the Lateran Treaties introduced the so-called «holy marriage with civil recognition», only the new Constitution (1948) cast a new light on this part of family law: art. 29, indeed, «recognizes the rights of the family as a natural society founded on marriage», while artt. 2 and 3 respectively protect all «social groups
where personality is expressed» and exclude discrimination based, inter alia, on «sex» and «religion». The new legal framework allowed the Constitutional Court and shortly after the legislator to introduce significant changes: the «indissolubility dogma» was wiped out in 1970, while the 1975 reform definitely hypostatized the objective of marital parity. The «secularization» process was completed in 2016, with the regulation of same-sex unions; however, some issues – like polygamous relationships – are still disputed and underresearched, and they will be consequently dealt with.


Alberto Mattia Serafin (July 17th, 1995) is Lawyer in Rome and PhD Candidate – 3rd year – at the University of Cassino (Italy). He graduated in Law at LUISS University (110/110 cum laude and honorable mention by the Evaluating Commission). Former Visiting Researcher at Max-Planck-Institut für ausländisches und internationales Privatrecht (2019), he studied in prestigious Universities (Cambridge, LSE, Harvard) and he is currently Independent Researcher at UNIDROIT. Speaker in national and international seminars, he is author of many articles, case-notes and reviews.