In Italy, those opposing LGBTQ+ rights have set their sights squarely on rainbow families, making them their primary target. Under Giorgia Meloni’s government, they have seized upon a ruling by the Supreme Court, known as the ‘Sezioni Unite’ decision number 38162, issued on the 30th of December last year. According to this ruling, mayors are not allowed to automatically transcribe the birth certificates of children born abroad through surrogacy. The non-biological parent must instead seek recognition through stepchild adoption. This means that they can only be identified as a parent with the approval of a judge.
On the 19th of January, the Ministry of the Interior, led by Matteo Piantedosi, issued a circular to the prefects, drawing their attention to the Supreme Court’s decision and urging them to ‘provide a similar communication to the mayors, in order to ensure punctual and uniform compliance with the jurisprudential guidelines expressed by the Sezioni Unite in the tasks of the competent offices.’
In March, the prefect of Milan, Renato Saccone, went above and beyond the intended scope of the circular. He urged Mayor Beppe Sala to not only suspend the registration of birth certificates for children born through surrogacy outside of Italy but also for those cases where children have two mothers and were born in Italy through heterologous fertilization. Heterologous fertilization involves the use of gametes, specifically donated sperm, from individuals outside the couple.
In recent months, several Italian courts have annulled the recognition of children of same-sex couples. In this escalating situation, on Thursday, the 15th of July, the public prosecutor’s office in Padua challenged the birth certificates of thirty-three children born to two mothers, specifically all those registered by Mayor Sergio Giordani from 2017 until now. The prosecutor points out that in Italy, heterologous fertilization is only allowed for heterosexual couples who live together or are married. Thus, the prefect of Padua is asking the court to rectify the birth certificates of these children by removing the indication of the non-biological mother as the second parent.
This will lead to numerous problems: the non-biological parent will require a stack of authorizations to accompany the child to school, the doctor, or on vacation, and a series of documents will be necessary, including those for appointing the non-biological parent as a guardian in the event of the other parent’s death.
Eugenia Maria Roccella, the Italian Minister for Equal Opportunities and the Family, brushes off the dramatic consequences associated with the retroactivity of this initiative. She stated that the solution for families at risk of having one or both parents erased from the birth certificate is to ‘follow the adoption procedure,’ specifically what is known as ‘stepchild adoption.’ This is a lengthy, complicated, humiliating, and costly process for the non-biological parent.
Two out of three types of Italian same-sex families will now be required to resort to stepchild adoption: two fathers of children born through surrogacy abroad and two mothers of children born in Italy through heterologous fertilization performed abroad. Meanwhile, mayors should still be able to transcribe the birth certificates of children born abroad to a same-sex couple through heterologous fertilization. Although relatively rare, this issue has been addressed multiple times by the Supreme Court, which has stated that these foreign birth certificates must be transcribed.
Commenting on the decision by the prosecutor’s office in Padua, the prominent Italian liberal politician and civil rights fighter, Emma Bonino, spoke of ‘a climate of persecution against rainbow families.’ The actions of the prosecutors are evidently influenced by the governing majority. ‘Just look at everything that is happening,’ says Bonino, referring to the recent decision by the Italian parliament to initiate the process of making surrogacy a universal crime, meaning it can be prosecuted even if practiced abroad.
It is a provision blatantly contradicting the penal code and international legal obligations. Surely, it is a hateful political act towards children who will be labelled by the state as the offspring of a universal crime. Once there were children of sin, and now there are children of crime,
condemns Bonino, who in the 1970s led the successful campaigns to legalise abortion and divorce.
To win the propaganda war, the government doesn’t even need to pass the law against surrogacy, which is already illegal in Italy. Merely hammering on these proposals offers a twofold advantage for the Italian right-wing. On one hand, it satisfies the desires of the most conservative segment of their electorate. On the other hand, it confuses the opposition, which is hopelessly divided on such a sensitive issue.