A move by Italy’s new right-wing government to restrict the rights of same-sex parents led hundreds to take to the streets over the weekend.
Protesters gathered in Milan’s Piazza della Scala Saturday for the “Hands Off Our Sons and Daughters” demonstration organized by LGBTQ+ rights groups after Italy’s Interior Ministry ordered the city to stop registering the children of same-sex couples.
While same-sex civil unions have been legal in the country since 2016, same-sex couples do not have the right to adopt, thanks in part to opposition from the Catholic Church. Surrogacy remains illegal in Italy and there are restrictions that prevent the adoption of “stepchildren” by one parent. Medically assisted reproduction, like in vitro fertilization (IVF), is only available to heterosexual couples.
Until last week, Milan was one of several Italian cities where same-sex couples could be listed as “parents”—as opposed to “mother” and “father”—on birth registrations. But as Aljazeera reports, last week the city’s mayor, Giuseppe Sala, announced that the Interior Ministry had sent a letter ordering an end to the practice. According to CNN, the Italian Interior Ministry said it would order other cities to halt the practice as well.
“It is an obvious step backwards from a political and social point of view, and I put myself in the shoes of those parents who thought they could count on this possibility in Milan,” Sala said on his podcast.
“We are talking about boys and girls already growing up in our communities and going to our schools,” Elly Schlein, the newly elected leader of Italy’s center-left Democratic Party said. “It is no longer tolerable, and these families are tired of being discriminated against.”
As the BBC notes, Italy’s newly elected Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, leader of the far-right Brothers of Italy party, made anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric a cornerstone of her campaign for office. She opposes allowing same-sex couples to adopt as well as marriage quality, calling civil union “good enough” for LGBTQ+ couples.
“Yes to the natural family, no to LGBT lobbies,” she declared last summer.
The move by Meloni’s government came the same week that the Italian senate rejected a proposal from the European Commission to introduce a standardized European parenthood certificate that would recognize same-sex parents.
The order leaves the children of same-sex couples in jeopardy. “Children end up having limited access to key services and benefits, such as healthcare, inheritance, and child support,” Angelo Schillaci, a law professor at Sapienza University in Rome told the BBC. “At present, only one parent is recognized by law, the other one is a ghost. In real life, parents and children play together, cook together, play sports, and go on holiday together. But on paper, they are apart, the state does not see them. It’s a paradoxical situation.”
Under current Italian law, the member of a same-sex couple who is not legally recognized as a child’s parent could lose custody if the legally recognized parent dies or the relationship ends.