Metro Weekly

Italy Erases Same-Sex Parents from Children’s Birth Certificates

Ultra-conservative Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni cracks down on recognition of LGBTQ parents in the name of “family values.”

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni – Photo: Official portrait.

“I cried for 10 days when I opened the letter. It was as if I did not exist,” Michele Leidi, a lesbian mother who lives outside the Italian city of Bergamo, told the UK-based newspaper the Daily Mail, recounting when she learned from authorities that she would be erased from her infant daughter’s birth certificate earlier this year.

Leidi was informed that, because she is not the biological mother of her daughter, the inclusion of her name on her daughter Giulia’s birth certificate was “contrary to public order.” This means that Leidi lacks parental rights, and that if her wife, Viola, were to die, Giulia could be taken out of Leidi’s care — and placed in the state’s.

The pair are among the first targets of the right-wing populist Italian government’s crackdown against same-sex parenting and surrogacy, which violate the country’s laws and “conservative moral values,” according to prime minister Giorgia Meloni, who leads the fascist Brothers of Italy party and campaigned against “the LGBT lobby” ahead of her party’s victory last year. 

“No one from the government or the prosecutors came to see that we are a happy family with a happy baby,” Viola told the Daily Mail.

Michela added: “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.”

Meloni, who despite being unmarried to the father of her own child, has sought to champion traditional “family values” to placate her most fervent supporters — a pattern that has become common as right-wing political movements throughout the world gain traction amid weakening trust in public institutions, economies still reeling from COVID-19 shutdowns, and a resurgence of social conservatism in response to increased visibility of racial, ethnic, sexual, and gender minorities.

While claiming she wishes to avoid divisiveness, Meloni has at the same time seized on culture-war issues such as “gender ideology,” crackdown on the use of English, so-called “food sovereignty” aimed at avoiding potentially more sustainable avenues of production, and opposition to same-sex marriage in order to mask the country’s economic struggles. Meloni has denied being homophobic, instead insisting that she is simply opposed to gay adoption. 

More than two dozen lesbian parents in Padua, another northern Italian city, have received similar notices to Michela and Viola, as have families in Milan, Florence, and Fiumicino, near Rome.

“These families are tired of being discriminated against,” Elly Schlein, the leader of the country’s main center-left party, a bisexual who is in a same-sex relationship, told The Independent. “We’re talking about boys and girls already growing up in our communities and going to schools.”

On the topic of schools, Michela and Viola, both special ed teachers, met at work 11 years ago, and entered into a civil union in 2020. Same-sex unions were legalized in Italy in 2016. More than 13,000 such partnerships have been registered since then, with partners enjoying several rights bestowed to married opposite-sex couples, but –- primarily due to opposition from the Catholic Church — prohibited from marrying or adopting children. 

Same-sex couples who want children must opt for foreign surrogacy, a practice described by leaders within Meloni’s political party as “worse than pedophilia.” The party wants to make so-called “procreative tourism” a criminal offense punishable by prison sentences and fines of 1 million euros.

Michela and Viola went to Spain for the latter’s artificial insemination, and when Giulia arrived, Bergamo’s mayor signed the birth certificate.

“He was very supportive,” Michela told the Daily Mail. “We have never felt any pressure from society. Everyone around us, in our families, friends, fellow teachers, have completely accepted our sexual orientation.”

Until recently, local mayors and council members had recognized both same-sex parents on official documents. But now — even as two-thirds of Italians hold positive views on same-sex parenting and adopting, per a recent poll — Meloni has ordered a stop to this practice, citing a Supreme Court ruling last year against a gay couple who brought a child obtained through surrogacy into Italy.

Padua’s mayor, Sergio Giordani, doesn’t have plans to stop. He is motivated not by LGBTQ rights or politics, but by “compassion for the babies.”

“We are speaking about love,” he told The Independent. “Recognition of both parents is an act of love.”

Similarly, Michela will continue raising her daughter alongside Viola, even though local judges rejected their bid to take their case to Italy’s Supreme Court.

“On paper, they say Giulia has one mother but we know she has two,” she told the Daily Mail. “We will do everything possible to prove we are a good family.”

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