Metro Weekly

Lesbian Couple Fleeing Italy Over Parental Rights

A lesbian couple are fleeing to Spain over fears that the Italian government will contest their parental rights to their sons.

Photo: Jordan Whitt, via Unsplash

A lesbian couple from Italy is fleeing to Spain over concerns that the Italian government may soon strip them of their parental rights.

The couple, 46-year-old Chiara and 42-year-old Christine, whose last name was kept private out of concern of retribution from the government, told Agence France-Presse that they are moving due to the far-right government’s crackdown on LGBTQ rights, especially the parental rights of same-sex couples.

Civil unions were legalized in Italy in 2016, but the law concerning the parental rights of same-sex couples, particularly non-biological parents, is muddy. Encouraged by several court rulings, local mayors had begun registering biological and non-biological parents on birth certificates over the past few years.

However, that was before Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni‘s government — led by the populist, neo-fascist party Brothers of Italy — began cracking down on the practice.

Earlier this year, Meloni’s interior minister ordered local governments to stop transcribing certificates of children born abroad through surrogacy, citing a recent court ruling.

In response, prosecutors across Italy began contesting the birth certificates of children born to same-sex parents — regardless of whether they were conceived through surrogacy or not. 

“It’s a nightmare,” Chiara told AFP, saying she and Christine are ready to leave friends, family, and her job in Rome and flee to Spain — which is considered more liberal on LGBTQ rights — to prevent overzealous prosecutors from attempting to nullify her parental rights. She says Spain is “the only escape route.”

Chiara is registered as the mother of 3-year-old Arturo, but is not his biological parent, meaning his birth certificate, and her parental rights, could be contested at any time.

She is also not the biological parent of Arturo’s baby brother, with whom Christine is pregnant. The baby, a boy, is due in early 2024. 

“The idea that this baby would be put up for adoption if Christine died, instead of being given to me, is absolute madness,” she said. “It would be an absurd brutality.”

As reported by AFP, same-sex couples and single women cannot access medically assisted reproduction, such as in vitro fertilization, in Italy. That means same-sex couples must travel elsewhere to conceive. However, there is no law addressing the registration of children who are conceived abroad but born in Italy. Additionally, the process of adopting “stepchildren” — the only avenue open for non-biological parents, is impeded by various obstacles and can prove costly.

In 2016, Italy’s highest court supported the transcription of a foreign birth certificate that named two mothers. In 2018, local courts ruled that lesbian women who assume parental responsibility for the child their partner carries should have the same rights as heterosexual men whose partners use donor sperm.

The high court has called on parliament to clarify the parental rights of same-sex couples, but lawmakers have declined to do so. Local mayors from Milan, Turin, Rome, Naples, Florence, Bologna, and Bari have also called on parliament to resolve the situation.

But such a resolution — particularly any that would condone same-sex parenting — is unlikely to be approved by Meloni’s government.

Meloni herself has trumpeted her conservative Christian beliefs, often railing against “gender ideology” and the “LGBT lobby,” and has said children should only be raised in two-parent, heterosexual households. 

Christine, a musician, said that Meloni has “clearly and explicitly” set out to make families headed by same-sex parents feel “lesser.” She refuses to consider adopting her own children, both out of principle and the fear that her sons would be taken out of her custody for too long.

As a result, she and Christine are preparing for their move to Spain, and are trying to overcome bureaucratic hurdles to ensure both mothers will be listed on the new baby’s birth certificate. 

“There are a series of highly stressful things that have to be done in a certain time — because if not, your son won’t be your son,” Chiara told AFP.

In cases earlier this year, judges in Milan and Bergamo ruled that birth certificates of children born to same-sex parents must be altered. A prosecutor in Padua has even instructed city officials to retroactively remove non-biological parents from birth certificates dating back to 2017.

Judges in Padua are currently debating whether to amend the certificates of 37 children who meet this criteria and are expected to hand down a decision in January.

Alice Bruni and her Irish partner Brona Kelly, mothers of a seven-month-old boy, were among the couples targeted in Padua. Bruni says removing Kelly from their son’s birth certificate would make her “like an aunt, a friend” rather than a parent.

Bruni also railed against how the court has dealt with their case, with both mothers appearing in court for only 15 minutes and never being given a chance to plead their case. She noted that the official letter informing them that the birth certificate would be amended to remove Kelly as a parent was riddled with errors, even referring to their son as a girl.

Aside from potentially losing access to their children if their partner dies or the partners split up, non-biological parents also face day-to-day stresses, such as not being able to take their child to a doctor without the express permission of the biological parent.

The children also lose inheritance rights upon the death of the non-biological parent, unless that parent has completed the adoption route.

Padua Mayor Sergio Giordani, one of the mayors registering same-sex mothers since 2017, told AFP he’ll continue to do so until the courts rule he can’t. And even if the Padua court issues a decision hostile to same-sex couples, the decision would likely be appealed to the country’s highest court — meaning that any pause in registering same-sex parents could be temporary.

“I believed I was doing the right thing… and I still do”, Giordani told AFP. “How can I say that this is a category A child, and this a category B one? This one has rights, and this one doesn’t?”

Support Metro Weekly’s Journalism

These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!