News (World)

Italy begins stripping lesbian mothers of their parental rights

Two lesbian mother and baby on bed having fun
Photo: Shutterstock

In conjunction with its crackdown on the rights of same-sex parents, the Italian government has begun retroactively stripping same-sex parents of their legal connection to their children.

Michela Leidi told the Daily Mail that she “cried for ten days” after receiving a letter informing her she would be removed from her daughter’s birth certificate. “It was as if I did not exist.”

Liedi and her wife Viola are reportedly one of the first three lesbian couples to have their children’s birth certificates changed after the country’s right-wing government announced in March that state agencies should no longer register the children of same-sex couples.

The couple doesn’t know why they were targeted as one of the first to have their legal status changed retroactively, as in most cities the policy has been focused on new babies born. They said their community, friends, and family have always supported them.

“I suspect the government is afraid that a family that looks different, like ours, can be as happy – maybe even happier sometimes – as a traditional family,” Liedi said. “On paper, they say Giulia has one mother but we know she has two. We will do everything possible to prove we are a good family.”

Her wife added, “No one from the government or the prosecutors came to see that we are a happy family with a happy baby.”

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.

Viola became pregnant through artificial insemination, and the couple had to travel to Spain to receive the treatment.

Until March, there were several Italian cities where same-sex couples could be listed as “parents”—as opposed to “mother” and “father”—on birth registrations. But the Interior Ministry began sending letters ordering an end to the practice. 

Italy’s 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.

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.

This is particularly horrific for another couple, Vanessa Finesso and Cristina Zambon. Finesso is the one who gave birth to their daughter after undergoing IVF in Spain. Even though she used Zambon’s egg, Zambon has been threatened with the loss of parental rights by the government. Finesso has cancer and is worried that if she dies, her wife will lose custody of their daughter.

The order also leaves the children of same-sex couples in jeopardy in other ways. “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 BBC when the policy was first announced. “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.”

In the city of Padua, where Finesso and Zambon live, 27 families (33 children) have gotten warning letters that one parent may lose parental rights and be stripped of their place on their kids’ birth certificates. Some plan to leave the country for good.

But the mayor of Padua, Sergio Giordani, is defying the government’s orders and continuing to issue birth certificates recognizing two-mom families.

“My phone is full of pictures of happy families with shining eyes,” he said. “I’m really proud of what I’ve done.”

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