Out in the World: Italian cities tighten up on kids' birth certificates

  • by Heather Cassell, BAR Contributor
  • Wednesday August 2, 2023
Share this Post:
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has begun cracking down on same-sex families. Photo: Reuters
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has begun cracking down on same-sex families. Photo: Reuters

Padua recently became Italy's first city to retroactively remove non-biological same-sex parents from children's birth certificates as other jurisdictions alter their processes. LGBTQ rights groups and politicians condemned the move and expressed concern that other cities will soon follow suit.

The Conversation reported Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's ultra-conservative government defines a "traditional family" as headed by a mother and a father.

Meloni, whose political party, Brothers of Italy, has been called Italy's most far-right political leader since the fascist era of Benito Mussolini, was elected in September 2022. Meloni's government came to power a month later.

Meloni used gay and lesbian families as a part of her anti-LGBTQ election campaign, calling the LGBTQ movement the "LGBT Lobby" and rallying against so-called gender ideology.

In January, Matteo Piantedosi, Italy's interior minister, acted on a December ruling by Italy's Court of Cassation and issued a memorandum ordering all Italian mayors to stop automatically registering the births of children born or conceived abroad using assisted reproductive technologies. The court ruled the birth certificate of a child of a gay couple who used a surrogate abroad to conceive should not be automatically recognized and recorded in Italy.

Last month, Padua Prosecutor Valeria Sanzari followed that court decision and a directive introduced by Family Minister Eugenia Roccella that only the biological parent of a child could be named on the birth certificate. The law is one of the first of Meloni's campaign promises to crack down on same-sex parenting. It obliges the second gay or lesbian parent to obtain written permission from the biological parent to pick up their child or children from school, among other daily tasks. If the biological parent dies, the child or children could become a ward of the state and the second parent would have to undergo a lengthy and expensive adoption procedure to get her child or children back, reported Reuters.

The government ordered city councils to stop registering new birth certificates of children of same-sex parents in March, reported CNN. Milan stopped registering non-biological parents of same-sex couples on children's birth certificates after the Prefect of Milan issued a letter.

In April, the birth certificate of one child born to two mothers was annulled in Bergamo, a city northeast of Milan, reported The Conversation.

But Padua appears to be the first city to retroactively remove a parent's name.

"Our families in Padua have been overwhelmed by a real tsunami: little girls and boys risk seeing their mothers, brothers and sisters erased, who will no longer be considered as such, becoming strangers before the Italian state," Italy's Association of Rainbow Families, which represents LGBTQ+ families, said in a statement, reported CNN.

Gay Paduan Alessandro Zan, who is a center-left parliamentarian and a leading member of the Italian gay organization Arcigay, condemned his hometown's action, calling it "a cruel, inhumane decision."

"These children are being orphaned by decree," he told Reuters.

Alessandra Mussolini, the granddaughter of Mussolini and a right-wing member of the European Parliament, called Padua's actions "unworthy of a civilized country" and accused Italy's government of "throw[ing] a bomb into a family" that will "hit only the children," she told CNN.

Sanzari announced plans to remove non-biological parent's names from 33 birth certificates of children born to lesbian couples, CNN reported. As of July 20, 27 lesbian mothers' names had been removed.

CNN reported about 300 women protested the removal of the non-biological parent's names from birth certificates outside Padua's Palace of Justice at the end of June.

The Paduan lesbian mothers were inseminated overseas and legally registered their children under Sergio Giordani's center-left government in 2017.

Italy is one of the last countries in the European Union that does not legally recognize same-sex marriage. In 2016, the country passed civil unions. Same-sex parents cannot legally adopt children. However, there was a loophole in the law and Italian same-sex couples could go abroad for surrogacy services and register their children at home.

Meloni's government is attempting to close that loophole to limit the rights of the non-biological second parent of gay and lesbian families. Last month, the prime minister's government approved legislation extending the national ban on surrogacy internationally. Those who break the law would face at least two years in jail and fines ranging from $651,000 to more than $1 million, reported CNN.

The laws also pose challenges for children of binational gay and lesbian parents. In some cases, the children won't be granted Italian citizenship, reported The Conversation.

Roccella, the family minister, denied discrimination against children defending the law before Italian lawmakers, claiming the children will not lose access to education and health care.

The proposed bill would also affect straight couples seeking reproductive services in Italy and abroad to help them grow their families.

Human Rights Watch raised the alarm about discrimination and violence against lesbian, bisexual, and queer women around the world in its report, "'This Is Why We Became Activists': Violence Against Lesbian, Bisexual, and Queer Women and Non-Binary People," published in February. The report found that access to fertility treatment and the rights of non-gestational lesbian mothers were two of the top concerns for lesbian, bisexual, and queer women activists across 26 countries.

Got international LGBTQ news tips? Call or send them to Heather Cassell at WhatsApp/Signal: 415-517-7239, or [email protected]

Help keep the Bay Area Reporter going in these tough times. To support local, independent, LGBTQ journalism, consider becoming a BAR member.