News (World)

“Love is our strength”: Queer Italian parents on daily life as the government destroys their rights

lesbian moms with their baby
Photo: Shutterstock

About three months after Giorgia Meloni’s far-right government came to power in Italy, same-gender couple Michela and Viola received a letter informing them that the name of the non-biological mother would be removed from the birth certificate of their 9-month-old baby. 

“For months since then, our daughter has not officially had two mothers,” Michela, the mother who lost her parental rights, told LGBTQ Nation.

This was one of the first actions of the new government, which for years has attacked the LGBTQ+ community and claimed that only heterosexual couples should have children.

Since there is no law protecting same-gender couples with children in Italy, it has been up to local authorities whether or not to register non-biological parents on birth certificates. Some regional councils have done so, including the one where Michela and Viola lived, but their power was immediately curtailed when the new far-right government instituted its new policy banning non-biological parents from being added to birth certificates. Some state prosecutors went further, though, deleting non-biological parents who were already registered, like Michela.  

She described what happened as a “tsunami” and something requiring “solidity and a stable relationship” to cope.

The couple had already endured so many challenges up to this point. In Italy, same-gender couples cannot access medically assisted reproduction, which is fully available to heterosexual couples. For that reason, Michela and Viola had to go abroad to conceive. Every step of the process until the birth of their child had its own issue to be solved.

For example, finding correct information on clinics, techniques, costs and rules for same-gender couples was not easy, as most of the facts available online are “very superficial,” Michela explained. Also, since there is no official and immediate recognition for same-gender parents and families, she said she wasn’t entitled to take maternity leave when her daughter was born. 

Couple Iris and Giada also had to go abroad to have a child. “Because of the Italian situation, we decided to go to Spain,” Iris told LGBTQ Nation. “We were lucky since everything went well, although it was challenging and we faced many obstacles.” 

“Living in a country where you are not recognized as a parent and a family, where you don’t have access to the same rights heterosexual couples have, insinuates that there is something wrong in you and your family,” she added. “[Still,] we fulfill our parental duties regardless of what the birth certificate says – it is our child who rather does not have the same rights as those born to a heterosexual couple.” 

Politics versus reality

Both couples expressed confusion over the mismatch between the hate peddled by far-right public figures and the caring people in their daily lives. 

“People are more open-minded than politics,” Iris explained.

“Our experience shows that society is ready to welcome different types of families. Everyone loved our kid from the very beginning, from the 90-year-old neighbor to the nurses at the hospital where he was born that considered us as his mothers without any ideological problems.”

Michela agrees. “We live in a small town, and people have always been nice with us. The parents of our kid’s nursery classmates are now our friends, the pediatrician never said a thing when I was taking my child to her after my name was erased from the birth certificate. Our neighbors from an older generation love our family as well.” 

After her name was erased from the birth certificate, Michela decided to try the stepchild adoption procedure – a very long, invasive, and costly process.

“They made us do and redo numerous medical tests, some of them at our expense, and many meetings with social services. Our families and parents were involved; we faced a lot of pressure.” It wasn’t easy, as Michela explained, but the community “fought with us.” She recalled, for example, the nursery teachers who offered to talk to social services to help them.  

Leaning on love

“In Italy, even pronouncing the word ‘lesbian’ creates a moment of upset,” Iris said, adding that it leads them to pay “more attention to the contexts we choose and in which we move, from kindergarten to pediatrician to babysitter, to ensure that we do not find ourselves and our child in situations of discrimination.”

But she also thinks this gives her family the advantage of raising a respectful and open-minded kid. “I consider it as an energy driver in educating our child about diversity and inclusion and what it means to feel loved regardless of your [LGBTQ+] identity.” 

Iris also believes in the power of community. “Building relationships with same-gender couples, talking to LGBTQ+ people who share the same values and experiences as you, feeling part of a safe space, is vital. Otherwise, you start isolating yourself and internalizing all the hate messages that come from the government or people online.” 

Michela said her family’s relationships and the love they receive every day play an important role in keeping them grounded and strong in this very tense political context.

“What has kept us going amidst the obstacles and problems we have had to go through and the hatred on social media that we often receive is love: the love we feel for each other, the love we have in our family, and the love we have received from the people around us.” 

Iris added, “We have a completely normal life, we have our hardships like everyone else, and we love each other very much, like many other parents: that is our strength.”

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