ROME: In 2018, Maria Silvia Fiengo and Francesca Pardi were among Italy’s first same-sex couples to be registered as parents.
The mayor of Milan, Giuseppe Sala, took a progressive stance and allowed children born to parents of the same gender to be acknowledged in the absence of clear national legislation.
For Maria Silvia and Francesca – and their four children Margherita, twins Giorgio and Raffaele, and Antonio being finally recognized as a household after years of legal challenges and discrimination was “truly incredible”.
This week, however, what was then seen as a major victory for equality and acceptance by the LGBT community was reversed.
Italy’s right-wing government instructed Milan’s city council to stop registering the children of same-sex parents, reigniting a debate around Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s conservative agenda.
Families, activists and political opponents are to protest against the ban in Milan on Saturday.
Meloni, who leads the far-right Brothers of Italy party, made anti-LGBT rhetoric a cornerstone of her electoral campaign, promising to protect traditional values.
“We were always a family, but being officially recognized as such by our own mayor made us feel welcome,” said Maria Silvia Fiengo. “Today, looking at what the government is doing, and knowing that other families won’t be able to have the same opportunity, we feel discouraged.”
Italy legalized same-sex civil unions in 2016 under a centre-left government.
However, stiff resistance from Catholic and conservative groups meant that the law stopped short of granting adoption rights to same-sex couples as well. Opponents said it would encourage surrogate pregnancies, which are still illegal in Italy.
That left a regulatory vacuum surrounding several aspects of LGBT family life, including adoption. Solutions aimed at getting around bureaucratic hurdles were reached on a case-by-case basis, as cases went to court.
Some local administrators, including the centre-left mayor of Milan, decided that children of same-sex couples would be registered independently.
Sala has now announced he has been forced to halt the practice after he was sent a letter by the interior ministry. It cited a ruling by Italy’s highest court requiring court approval for legal recognition of parental status.
“It is a clear step backwards, politically and socially, and I put myself in the shoes of those parents who thought they could count on this possibility in Milan,” said the mayor in his daily podcast Buongiorno Milano, adding that he was left with no other choice. Children who are denied the right to have both parents recognized on their birth certificate are left in a legal limbo.
Their families face a range of challenges. In the most extreme scenario, if the legally recognized parent were to pass away, the children could become wards of the state and face the prospect of being orphaned.
In Italy’s LGBT community, this has led to a growing sense of frustration and anxiety, while the Meloni government’s hostile approach to LGBT rights has further exacerbated the issue.
“Children end up having limited access to key services and benefits, such as healthcare, inheritance and child support,” said Angelo Schillaci, law professor at Sapienza University in Rome.
“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.” (Int’l News Desk)