Around 300 women took part in a sit-in outside Padua’s palace of justice on Friday, after a state prosecutor in the northern Italian city said the birth certificates of 33 children born to lesbian couples were not legal.
In a peaceful protest, the women held up signs with slogans such as: “The teacher taught us that we are all the same. Didn’t your teacher teach you?”
Originally, the state prosecutor questioned the legality of the birth certificate of a child with two mothers, registered by the municipality in August 2017.
The prosecutor described the naming of the non-biological mother as the second parent on the birth certificate as “illegitimate” and has asked the local civil court to allow her name to be removed from both the certificate and from the child’s double-barreled surname.
The child’s biological mother, a 40-year-old who married her partner abroad, has received notification of the request from acting Padua prosecutor Valeria Sanzari, CNN affiliate SkyTG24 reported Monday.
The court hearing is set for November 14, a document seen by CNN shows.
In her petition to the court, the prosecutor wrote that “the young age of the child excludes that the change of the surname as requested could have repercussions on her social life.”
On Monday, SkyTG24 reported the little girl’s biological mother as saying: “This is not just about repercussions on social life, but repercussions on one’s identity, until proven otherwise a fundamental right. A personal trauma at a delicate stage of development, from no longer having a brother and a mother.”
And other families are likely to face a similar situation soon.
The prosecutor’s office has also asked the municipality for the birth certificates of all 33 children who have been registered with the surnames of two mothers since 2017, a spokesman for Sergio Giordani, the mayor of Padua, told CNN Wednesday. He added that letters had been sent to seven more families that day, informing them that their children’s birth certificates are invalid.
These 33 cases “are the same” and all the couples will be notified, Sanzari told Italian news agency ANSA on Tuesday.
“I am obliged to enforce the law and with the current legislation I cannot do anything else,” she added.
The Padua prosecutor’s office is acting on the basis that Italian law doesn’t recognize the possibility of a child having two mothers.
Gay marriage has not been legalized in Italy. Because it isn’t recognized in law, the non-biological parent in a same-sex relationship has to make a special case for legally adopting their child.
Padua mayor Giordani has said he is happy with the municipality’s decision to include both mothers on the birth certificates, saying in a press release on Tuesday that it is “an act of responsibility toward these little ones, because I do not accept the thought that they are discriminated against from the very beginning, as soon as they are born.”
He said there is a “very serious legislative vacuum” that the Italian parliament needs to remedy, and he called on politicians “to put aside the ideological battle and think only of the children.”
The prosecutor’s move comes three months after the right-wing government of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni ordered city councils to stop automatically registering both parents in lesbian couples on birth certificates.
In March, the municipality of Milan had to stop registering the births of children born overseas to same-sex couples, following a letter from the Prefect of Milan.
On Monday, Italian lawmakers began debating a controversial bill known as “DL Varchi,” which would criminalize surrogacies arranged abroad, with sentences of up to two years in prison and a fine of €600,000 to €1 million ($651,000 to $1.1 million).
However, an “amnesty” may be granted to people who had children through surrogacy if the law is passed, Family Minister Eugenia Roccella said in an interview due to be aired Friday, Reuters reported.
CNN has reached out to the minister’s office for confirmation.
Meloni’s campaign for last September’s national election was laced with anti-LGBTQ+ themes and support for traditional “family values.” And she tweeted in 2021 that surrogacy is “an abomination that wants to reduce human life to a bargaining chip.”
Her stance has drawn criticism from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who told Meloni at a G7 summit last month that Canada was “concerned” about some of Italy’s positions on LGBTQ+ rights. Meloni responded that her government is following court decisions and not deviating from previous adminstrations.
Italy’s Association of Rainbow Families, which represents LGBTQ+ families, condemned the Padua prosecutor’s move as “shameful” in a civilized country.
“This is the first time that all of a city’s certificates have been challenged so many years after they were formed, and for this to happen as a result of pressure on mayors from a ministry and a government is something that should give anyone pause about the tightness of our democracy,” the association said Wednesday on its Facebook page.
“Our families in Padua have been overwhelmed by a real tsunami: little girls and boys risk seeing their mothers, brothers and sisters erased, who will no longer be considered as such, becoming strangers before the Italian state,” it said.
The minister for parliamentary elections, Luca Ciriani, defended the prosecutor’s decision. The prosecutor’s office “simply applied the law, as recalled by a Supreme Court ruling. In Italy, marriage is only between a man and a woman, and therefore only the biological parent is the parent whose surname can be registered,” Ciriani said Tuesday on RTL radio.
Chiara Gribaudo, an MP from the center-left Democratic Party, was at Friday’s protest. She tweeted that a “violent act” had been committed in Padua and that “the law (was) interpreted according to use and consumption to divide the country and discriminate against people.”
And Alessandra Mussolini, a right-wing Member of the European Parliament and granddaughter of dictator Benito Mussolini, said in a video published on Twitter Tuesday: “What happened in Padua, with the prosecutor’s office challenging the birth certificates of children born to homosexual couples, is unworthy of a civilized country. It is like going to throw a bomb into a family and it just happens to hit only the children. An established chain of affection has been broken and tried to be broken.”