The European parliament has condemned Italy’s conservative government after it demanded that a council stop registering the children of same-sex parents, in its first move to restrict LGBTQ+ rights since taking power.
MEPs said they feared the move against Milan city council, which until recently had been transcribing children born overseas to same-sex couples via surrogacy or IVF into its civil register, was “part of a broader attack against the LGBTQI+ community in Italy”.
The Milan mayor, Giuseppe Sala, had travelled to Brussels this week to garner support and is seeking to form an alliance made up of opposition parties to fight for the rights of same-sex-parent families.
In an amendment to a 2022 report put forward by Renew Europe, a liberal and centrist group, the MEPs urged Italy to “immediately rescind its decision”, arguing that the move “will inevitably lead to discrimination against not only same-sex couples but also primarily their children” and that it was “a direct breach of children’s rights” under a UN convention.
The government of Giorgia Meloni, whose far-right Brothers of Italy party promised to defend the traditional family, has also tabled a bill that would criminalise couples who go abroad to have children via surrogacy.
Surrogacy is already illegal in Italy, while IVF is only available for heterosexual couples.
Milan was forced to stop registering the children of gay parents after the interior ministry said it was up to the courts to rule on such a decision.
Thousands of people took to the streets in protest earlier this month, and other mayors are rebelling against the move. “I have always carried out these transcriptions because I am not interested in where the child is born or how,” Antonio Decaro, the mayor of Bari, told Rai TV on Friday. “If they live in my city, I am interested in how that child lives, and they must have the same rights as other children.”
Italy enacted a civil unions law in 2016 when it was governed by a coalition led by the centre-left Democratic party, but the bill stopped short of legalising gay marriage, while a clause that would have allowed a person to adopt the child of their same-sex partner was scrapped after pressure from rightwing parties and the Catholic church.
Italy’s LGBTQ+ community had feared that rights attained so far would be eroded by a Meloni-led government. A common feature of the rabble-rousing speeches given by Meloni, a self-described “Christian mother”, during election rallies was the reiteration of her view that a child should only be raised by heterosexual parents. She has also spoken out against “gender ideology” and “LGBT lobbies”.
In the run-up to last September’s general election, Federico Mollicone, a Brothers of Italy deputy, urged the state broadcaster Rai not to screen an episode of the globally popular children’s cartoon series Peppa Pig over the inclusion of a same-sex couple in its cast of characters. “We cannot accept gender indoctrination,” Mollicone said at the time.
In a TV interview this month, he sparked further criticism after saying “surrogacy is definitely a serious crime … more serious than paedophilia”.
Brothers of Italy was also among the rightwing parties that blocked the passing of a law in 2021 that would have criminalised homophobia, arguing that it compromised free speech.