The French consulate in Rome has recognised a French-Italian homosexual couple's legal status, in a move aimed at highlighting the lack of rights in Italy.

The couple, Alessandro De Giorgi and Christian Panicucci, were given a "Civil Solidarity Pact" certificate during a brief ceremony today.

The pact, recognised in many European countries, including France, gives gay couples the same rights as married heterosexual couples for tax purposes, inheritance, donations and welfare benefits.

The ceremony was held as two pieces of gay law reform, proposed by left-wing deputy Franco Grillini, and the Refounded Communists, are before the Italian parliament.

Since 1989 laws governing same-sex couples have been introduced by Denmark, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands and France, in that order.