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The gay marriage debate arrived within walking distance of the Vatican on Saturday as Rome's mayor registered 16 gay marriages celebrated abroad in open defiance of Italy's government.

Gay marriage is illegal in Italy. Interior Minister Angelino Alfano recently sent a notice to local prefects saying any registrations of gay marriages celebrated abroad would be voided, and Rome's prefect has vowed to do so immediately.

Rome Mayor Ignazio Marino received thunderous applause as he arrived in the city hall reception room where the couples, their friends and family gathered to make their marriages official in Rome's city ledger. One by one, the couples — gay and lesbian, some with children — were called up to witness Marino transcribe the date and locations of their weddings, including in Spain, Portugal and the U.S.

— The Associated Press
A gay couple, officially married outside Italy, pose with Rome's mayor Ignazio Marino during a ceremony for the registration of their marriage in Rome on Saturday.REMO CASILLI / Reuters