Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said this month that her belief is that "a child deserves only the best: a mother and a father."
Italy's LGTBQ+ community is accusing Giorgia Meloni's right-wing government of trampling on same-sex couples' parental rights despite the country's already having some of the weakest in Europe.
For activists, the latest example of this came this week when the Senate voted against a European Commission regulation for cross-border recognition of same-sex parents. Italy thus joined the Visegrad group — composed of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia — in refusing to transpose the regulation.
The news has outraged the country's LGTBQ+ community, which has repeatedly called out Meloni’s government for discrimination, pointing to a strategy of anti-gay propaganda and tightening of norms against same-sex parenting.
Brothers of Italy, the ruling party with neo-fascist roots, led the vote against the European regulation, citing concerns that recognition of same-sex parents could undermine the current ban on surrogate pregnancy.
Italian law currently considers surrogacy an offence to the dignity of women.
'Mother and father'
“The veto is bogus,” Vincenzo Miri, president of Rete Lenford, an association that provides legal help for queer people, told Euronews. “The European proposal would not change the current ban nor force recognition of Italian same-sex parents who have resorted to surrogacy abroad.”
The European proposal would affect only parents already recognised in their country of origin, but even that is not mandatory.
“There are a number of European same-sex couples that resort to surrogate pregnancies, and recognising them would overstep the ban,” Marco Scurria, Brothers of Italy’s secretary of the European Policies’ Commission in the Senate, argued to Euronews, citing hearings with legal experts on the matter.
“Unrecognised same-sex parents won’t have any problem in Italy,” Scurria added, “but we cannot open a door for something illegal here. Parents will be recognised, but this should not be automatic, or otherwise people can do whatever they want.”
Meanwhile, a draft legislation backed by Brothers of Italy lawmakers in Parliament aims to make it a crime for Italian couples to resort to surrogacy in countries where the practice is legal, a proposal that could potentially interfere with international law.
Queer rights groups consider the government’s concerns on same-sex surrogate pregnancy a long-standing obsession of the right, although mostly straight couples actually use surrogacy.
But surrogacy is not the only topic the government takes issue with.
“Even when the left approved the recognition of same-sex unions in 2016, the question of same-sex parenting was left behind,” Alessia Crocini, president of Famiglie Arcobaleno, an association that assists same-sex families, said to Euronews.
In Italy, adopting the child of a same-sex partner is extremely difficult and although recognition of same-sex parenthood is possible, it usually involves a lengthy legal process which typically mostly applies to women couples having used assisted pregnancies and step-child adoption.
Rete Lenford and Famiglie Arcobaleno are representing hundreds of such cases in court.
One of these legal battles was over a 2019 right-wing decree from the then Minister of Interior Matteo Salvini that required to specify who were the “mother and father” on children’s IDs instead of “parents”.
'They want us to stop having children'
The veto on the EU’s proposal is seen by activists and the wider LGTBQ+ community as part of a wider crackdown on same-sex parents’ rights, a flagship battle for Meloni’s government.
On Monday, a day before the veto on the European proposal, the Ministry of the Interior forced the mayor of Milan, Giuseppe Sala, to stop recognising same-sex parents in the city, citing a norm that prevents same-sex couples from accessing assisted reproduction.
“It is an ideological battle for this government,” Mario Colamarino, president of the Mario Mieli association for queer rights, told Euronews.
This month Meloni reiterated in an interview her belief that “a child deserves only the best: a mother and a father.”
The Minister of the Family and Equal Opportunity, Eugenia Roccella, has frequently repeated this idea on television, where same-sex parents’ rights are usually discussed without allowing LGBTQ+ activists or couples to participate.
“Judges said that we should have the interest of children in mind, which is to have a family, but Italy is not doing that. Our children will still have two fathers or two mothers, whatever a religious or right-wing person says,” Crocini commented.
A 2021 judgment from the Constitutional Court asked the Parliament to open the regulatory framework of adoptions in special circumstances to same-sex parents.
“The practice of adoption is a problem both for straight and same-sex couples, and Brothers of Italy believes it is important to help children to find a family,” Scurria vowed.
But a draft law to facilitate same-sex parents’ adoptions does not appear to be a priority for Meloni’s government, and standard adoptions remain prohibited for same-sex couples.
“They want us to stop having children,” Crocini argued, “but we will keep having them, and they will grow up in a country that discriminates against them.”
Euronews contacted the Ministry for Family and Equal Opportunity and Brothers of Italy senator and party faction chairman Lucio Malan for further comment but had received no answer by the time of publication.