Hundreds of gay marriages have been annulled in Italy by a panel led by a Catholic judge in the secretive Opus Dei organisation.
Same-sex marriage is not technically legal in Italy, but several left-wing mayors have registered marriages which have been conducted abroad.
Judges at Italy’s highest appeal court, the Council of State, annulled a ruling in favour of cities that had registered these unions.
The panel was led by a judge who was a former president of a halls of residence in Milan, run by Opus Dei.
The move has caused controversy - Opus Dei, made famous by Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, is a highly conservative organisation, whose members practice a ‘pious’ lifestyle.
Interior minister Angelito Alfano said, ‘Let us be clear. Marriage between two people of the same sex is not contemplated under Italian law, therefore the transcriptions made by local mayors are illegal.’
Foreign ministry undersecretary Benedetto Della Vedova said Italy, ‘remains at the starting post as regards gay rights, which urgently need to be regulated.’