1974 Italian divorce referendum

Last updated
Referendum on the Abrogation of the Divorce Law
12 May 1974

Do you want the Law of 1 December 1970, No. 898, on the regulation of cases of dissolution of marriage, to be abrogated?
OutcomeDivorce law remains in force
Votes %
Check-71-128-204-brightblue.svg Yes13,157,55840.74%
Light brown x.svg No19,138,30059.26%
Valid votes32,295,85897.80%
Invalid or blank votes727,3212.20%
Total votes33,023,179100.00%
Registered voters/turnout37,646,32287.72%

1974 Italian divorce referendum.svg
Blue indicates provinces with a majority Yes vote, while Red indicates provinces with a majority No vote.

An abrogative referendum on the divorce law was held in Italy on 12 May 1974. [1] Voters were asked whether they wanted to repeal a government law passed three years earlier allowing divorce for the first time in modern Italian history (Law of 1 December 1970, no. 898). Those voting "yes" wanted to outlaw divorce as had been the case before the law came into effect, and those voting "no" wanted to retain the law and their newly gained right to divorce. The referendum was defeated by a margin of 59.26% to 40.74% on a voter turnout of 87.72% out of 37 million eligible voters, thus allowing the divorce law to remain in force.


This vote was the first of its kind in the country, being the first regular legislative referendum held by the Italian Republic 27 years after the Italian constitution, which allowed such referendums, was approved. It was considered a major victory for the civil rights and anti-clericalism movements, and for the Italian Radical Party.

Initial petitions

In January 1971 Agostino Sanfratello from Piacenza and Franco Maestrelli from Milan were the first to request a referendum against the divorce law at the Court of Cassation on behalf of the movement Catholic Alliance. [2] Signatures and petitions for the 1974 referendum were collected by Christian groups led by Gabrio Lombardo with very strong support from the Catholic church.

Political party positions

The Christian Democrats and the neo-fascist Italian Social Movement intensely campaigned for a yes vote to abolish the law and make divorce illegal again. Their main themes were the safeguarding of the traditional nuclear family model and the Roman Catechism.

Most left-wing political forces, the main ones being the Italian Socialist Party and the Italian Communist Party, supported the no faction.

Intense campaigning for a no vote also came from Marco Pannella of the Italian Radical Party which had been petitioning for a right to divorce in Italy since the early 1960s.

ChoicePartiesPolitical orientationLeader
Yes check.svg Yes Christian Democracy (DC) Christian democracy Amintore Fanfani
Italian Social Movement (MSI) Neo-fascism Giorgio Almirante
X mark.svg No Italian Communist Party (PCI) Communism Enrico Berlinguer
Italian Socialist Party (PSI) Socialism Francesco De Martino
Radical Party (PR) Libertarianism Marco Pannella
Italian Republican Party (PRI) Social liberalism Ugo La Malfa
Italian Liberal Party (PLI) Liberalism Agostino Bignardi
Italian Democratic Socialist Party (PSDI) Social democracy Flavio Orlandi

Confusion about voting

The wording of the referendum statement caused significant confusion, with some people not understanding that they had to vote "No" in order to retain the right to divorce or vote "Yes" in order to outlaw divorce. It was argued that the wording made the statement insufficiently clear, and some campaigners from the no camp stated that without this confusion the no vote might have been even higher than the 59% obtained. (See double negative.)


The Eurovision Song Contest 1974 held in April of that year was not broadcast on the Italian state television channel RAI because of Italy's entry, a song by Gigliola Cinquetti. Despite the contest taking place more than a month before the planned vote, and despite Cinquetti eventually coming in second place, Italian censors refused the contest and song to be shown or heard. RAI censors felt the song, titled "" (Italian for "yes") and containing lyrics constantly repeating the word "Sì", could be accused of being a subliminal message and a form of propaganda to influence the Italian voting public to vote yes in the referendum. The song remained censored on most Italian state television and radio stations for over a month.


X mark.svg No19,138,30059.26
Invalid/blank votes727,321
Registered voters/turnout37,646,32287.72
Source: Ministry of the Interior
Referendum results (excluding invalid votes)
13,157,558 (40.7%)
19,138,300 (59.3%)


By region

Abruzzo Chieti   L'Aquila   Pescara   Teramo 332,89948.87348,22951.13698,59182.16
Aosta Valley 16,75324.9450,41275.0669,73186.81
Apulia Bari   Brindisi   Foggia   Lecce   Taranto 996,01752.60897,63047.401,930,16584.66
Basilicata Matera   Potenza 159,33953.58138,02446.42306,46178.87
Calabria Catanzaro   Cosenza   Reggio Calabria 460,11850.85444,73249.15929,80974.14
Campania Avellino   Benevento   Caserta   Naples   Salerno 1,300,38252.231,189,37447.772,536,83979.27
Emilia-Romagna Bologna   Ferrara   Forlì   Modena   Parma   Piacenza   Ravenna   Reggio Emilia 771,68929.031,886,37670.972,718,07795.28
Friuli-Venezia Giulia Gorizia   Pordenone   Trieste   Udine 292,76236.16516,79863.84827,95189.94
Lazio Frosinone   Latina   Rieti   Rome   Viterbo 1,042,31336.621,804,00963.382,892,50589.58
Liguria Genoa   Imperia   La Spezia   Savona 335,07527.43886,34372.571,249,00889.42
Lombardy Bergamo   Brescia   Cremona   Como   Mantua   Milan   Pavia   Sondrio   Varese 2,172,59540.093,246,66959.915,545,79493.15
Marche Ascoli Piceno   Ancona   Macerata   Pesaro 370,79442.38504,22657.62903,80992.28
Molise Campobasso   Isernia 104,22160.0469,37239.96178,48475.87
Piedmont Alessandria   Asti   Cuneo   Novara   Turin   Vercelli 838,14329.172,035,54670.832,954,95690.79
Sardinia Cagliari   Nuoro   Sassari 338,34444.80416,96555.20768,79281.93
Sicily Agrigento   Caltanissetta   Catania   Enna   Palermo   Ragusa   Syracuse   Trapani 1,163,07449.421,190,26850.582,404,64076.59
Trentino-Alto Adige Bolzano   Trento 247,91750.60242,05149.40505,57889.82
Tuscany Arezzo   Florence   Grosseto   Livorno   Lucca   Massa-Carrara   Pisa   Pistoia   Siena 722,10530.401,653,19869.602,425,08893.95
Umbria Perugia   Terni 170,05432.63351,07767.37532,52592.79
Veneto Belluno   Padua   Rovigo   Treviso   Venice   Verona   Vicenza 1,322,96451.081,267,00148.922,650,67693.60
Italy 13,157,55840.7419,138,30059.2633,023,17987.72
Source: Ministry of the Interior

By most populated city

Turin 154,90820.14614,06679.86780,79990.71
Milan 293,04526.50812,95573.501,121,92691.03
Genoa 128,66924.30400,70775.70538,63288.58
Venice 68,64729.23166,22270.77238,69794.03
Bologna 94,69526.74259,38973.26359,70596.27
Florence 91,35928.73226,67271.27323,25894.25
Rome 539,60131.991,147,27968.011,705,07989.38
Naples 238,46439.70362,21860.30606,15779.72
Palermo 135,14943.71174,02456.29313,22876.51

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Eurovision Song Contest 1974</span> International song competition

The Eurovision Song Contest 1974 was the 19th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest, held on 6 April 1974 in the Dome in Brighton, United Kingdom. Organised by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and host broadcaster the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), and presented by Katie Boyle, this was the fifth time that the United Kingdom had staged the contest.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Amintore Fanfani</span> Italian politician statesman (1908–1999)

Amintore Fanfani was an Italian politician and statesman, who served as 32nd prime minister of Italy for five separate terms. He was one of the best-known Italian politicians after the Second World War and a historical figure of the left-wing faction of Christian Democracy. He is also considered one of the founders of the modern Italian centre-left.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Italy in the Eurovision Song Contest</span> Overview of Italy in the Eurovision Song Contest

Italy has participated in the Eurovision Song Contest 48 times since making its debut as one of only seven countries to compete at the first contest in 1956, which took inspiration from the Sanremo Music Festival. Italy competed at the contest without interruption until 1980, discontinuing its participation on a number of occasions during the 1980s and 1990s. After a 13-year absence starting in 1998, the country returned to the contest in 2011. Italy has won the contest three times, along with an additional 16 top-five finishes. Italy hosted the contest in Naples (1965), Rome (1991) and Turin (2022).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Referendums in Italy</span>

A referendum, in the Italian legal system is a request directed to the whole electorate to express their view on a determined question. It is the main instrument of direct democracy in Italy.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2006 Italian general election</span> 15th election of the Italian Republic Parliament

The 2006 Italian general election was held on 9 and 10 April 2006. Romano Prodi, leader of the centre-left coalition The Union, narrowly defeated the incumbent Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, leader of the centre-right coalition House of Freedoms. Initial exit polls suggested a victory for Prodi, but the results narrowed as the count progressed. On 11 April 2006, Prodi declared victory; Berlusconi never conceded defeat and an ensuing dispute formed.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gigliola Cinquetti</span> Italian singer and TV presenter (born 1947)

Gigliola Cinquetti is an Italian singer, songwriter, and television presenter.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fifteenth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland</span> Amendment to remove the constitutional prohibition on divorce

The Fifteenth Amendment of the Constitution Act 1995 is an amendment of the Constitution of Ireland which removed the constitutional prohibition on divorce, and allowed for the dissolution of a marriage provided specified conditions were satisfied. It was approved by referendum on 24 November 1995 and signed into law on 17 June 1996.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sì (Gigliola Cinquetti song)</span> 1974 song by Gigliola Cinquetti

"" ("Yes") is the name of the Italian entry to the Eurovision Song Contest 1974, which finished second behind the Swedish entry "Waterloo" sung by ABBA.

Five nationwide popular referendums were held in Italy on 8 November 1987, with three questions about nuclear energy after the Chernobyl disaster, and two questions about justice. Voting day had been postponed by six months, according to the Italian Constitution, because of the snap election of spring.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2009 New Zealand child discipline referendum</span>

The 2009 New Zealand Referendum on Child Discipline was held from 31 July to 21 August, and was a citizens-initiated referendum on parental corporal punishment. It asked:

Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2011 United Kingdom Alternative Vote referendum</span> 2011 referendum in the UK on reforming the voting system

The United Kingdom Alternative Vote referendum, also known as the UK-wide referendum on the Parliamentary voting system was held on Thursday 5 May 2011 in the United Kingdom (UK) to choose the method of electing MPs at subsequent general elections. It occurred as a provision of the Conservative–Liberal Democrat coalition agreement drawn up in 2010 and also indirectly in the aftermath of the 2009 expenses scandal. It operated under the provisions of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011 and was the first national referendum to be held under provisions laid out in the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Legislature VI of Italy</span> 6th legislature of the Italian Republic (1972–1976)

The Legislature VI of Italy was the 6th legislature of the Italian Republic, and lasted from 25 May 1972 until 4 July 1976. Its composition was the one resulting from the general election of 7 May 1972.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2012 Maine Question 1</span> Referendum on same-sex marriage

Maine Question 1 was a voter referendum on an initiated state statute that occurred on November 6, 2012. The referendum was held to determine whether or not to legalize same-sex marriage. The referendum passed with a 53-47% vote legalizing same-sex marriage in Maine.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2014 Catalan self-determination referendum</span>

A non-binding Catalan self-determination referendum, also known as the Citizen Participation Process on the Political Future of Catalonia, was held on Sunday, 9 November 2014, to gauge support on the political future of Catalonia. While also referred to as "Catalan independence referendum", the vote was rebranded as a "participation process" by the Government of Catalonia, after a "non-referendum popular consultation" on the same topic and for the same date had been suspended by the Constitutional Court of Spain.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2014 Venetian independence referendum</span> Unofficial, non-binding, online and privately organised poll

The Venetian independence referendum of 2014 was an unofficial, non-binding, online and privately organised poll held among residents of Veneto, one of the 20 regions of Italy, 16–21 March 2014. The vote, known also as the "digital plebiscite" or "Plebiscito.eu", was promoted by Plebiscite 2013, a Venetian nationalist organisation led by Gianluca Busato.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thirty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland</span> 2015 amendment permitting same-sex marriage

The Thirty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution Act 2015 amended the Constitution of Ireland to permit marriage to be contracted by two persons without distinction as to their sex. Prior to the enactment, the Constitution was assumed to contain an implicit prohibition on same-sex marriage in the Republic of Ireland. It was approved at a referendum on 22 May 2015 by 62% of voters on a turnout of 61%. This was the first time that a state legalised same-sex marriage through a popular vote. Two legal challenges regarding the conduct of the referendum were dismissed on 30 July by the Court of Appeal, and the bill was signed into law by the President of Ireland on 29 August. An amendment to the Marriage Act 2015 provided for marriages permitted by the new constitutional status. The act came into force on 16 November 2015; the first same-sex marriage ceremony was held on 17 November 2015.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2017 Maine Question 1</span> Referendum on allowing casinos in York County

Maine Question 1, formally An Act To Allow Slot Machines or a Casino in York County, was a citizen-initiated referendum question that appeared on the November 7, 2017, statewide ballot in Maine. It sought to award a license for the construction and operation of a casino in York County, Maine by a qualified entity as spelled out in the proposed law, with tax revenue generated by the casino to go to specific programs. The wording of the proposed law effectively permitted only one company, Capital 7, to be awarded the license. The ballot measure was defeated, with 83% of voters opposing it.

A referendum on a law governing the Divača-Koper rail upgrade was held in Slovenia on 24 September 2017. The referendum was marked by a low turnout; a majority of voters voted in favour of the proposed law. The results were annulled by the Supreme Court in March 2018, resulting in a new referendum being held in 13 May 2018.

The Thirty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland is an amendment to the Constitution of Ireland which altered the provisions regulating divorce. It removed the constitutional requirement for a defined period of separation before a Court may grant a dissolution of marriage, and eased restrictions on the recognition of foreign divorces. The amendment was effected by an act of the Oireachtas, the Thirty-eighth Amendment of the Constitution Act 2019.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2020 Italian constitutional referendum</span>

A constitutional referendum about the reduction of the size of the Italian Parliament was held in Italy on 20 and 21 September 2020. Initially scheduled to be held on 29 March, the referendum was postponed following the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in Italy and subsequent lockdown.


  1. Dieter Nohlen & Philip Stöver (2010) Elections in Europe: A data handbook, p1048 ISBN   978-3-8329-5609-7
  2. Oscar Sanguinetti and Pierluigi Zoccatelli (2022) Costruiremo ancora Cattedrali. Per una storia delle origini di Alleanza Cattolica, D'Ettoris