CORRIERE DELLA SERA (Italy)

Church and home are twin pillars of life in Italy, a historically Catholic country that plays host to the Vatican.

And so it is, not surprisingly perhaps, that the high priests of home furnishing, Ikea, have moved far ahead of the Catholic Church – not to mention, the Italian government -- in securing rights for gay couples in Italy. To coincide with the International Day Against Homophobia, the Swedish furniture giant announced Thursday that employee family benefits for Ikea Italia workers will extend to gay couples, Corriere della Sera reports.

With the influence of the Catholic Church still strong in Italian politics, gay rights in Italy lag far behind other Western countries. Across the border, newly elected President Francois Hollande is expected to make France the next country to legalize gay marriage.

Italy, meanwhile, does not yet even allow gay couples to form civil unions, which afford an array of accompanying rights and benefits for the respective partners. Ikea has thus decided to act on its own: with a "family certificate" from local authorities enough to guarantee full rights and recognition for the fixed partner of any LGBT employee.

The package of family benefits includes: time off for a personal emergency, honeymoon and birth of a child of a partner, as well as extended health coverage, and of course standard Ikea family store discounts on all those build-it-yourself cabinets, and yummy Swedish meatballs.

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