In January, Italy’s right-wing government ordered state agencies to cease registration of children born to same-sex couples. Now they’ve taken it a step further: a state prosecutor in northern Italy has ordered the cancellation and re-issuance of 33 birth certificates of lesbian couples’ children, endangering access to medical care and education.
Non-gestational mothers are receiving letters informing them that they are being retroactively removed from their children’s birth certificates. New birth certificates are being issued listing the name of only one of the child’s mothers.
In February, Human Rights Watch released the first global report on violence and discrimination against lesbian, bisexual, and queer (LBQ+) women, which found access to fertility treatment and the rights of non-gestational lesbian mothers were two of the top concerns for LBQ+ activists across 26 countries. In January 2022, a United States court removed lesbian mother Kris Williams from her child’s birth certificate, replacing it with the name of the sperm donor, who petitioned for custody. In December 2022, a Japanese draft law proposed prohibiting doctors from providing fertility treatment to any woman not married to a man.
In Italy, lesbian couples cannot access fertility treatment, same-sex couples cannot marry, and the law does not explicitly regulate whether same-sex parents can both be registered. Many lesbian couples go abroad for fertility treatment and even to give birth, then bring home their child’s birth certificate for registration with the local municipality. Italy’s recent moves attack this already expensive, precarious, and difficult path to legal parenthood.
In interviews I conducted for the 2023 investigation, queer women’s concerns about parental rights often superseded hallmark LGBT rights issues, like marriage equality or the decriminalization of same-sex conduct. Lesbians want to create and protect their families, regardless of if, when, and how the government decriminalizes their lives and recognizes their relationships.
The right to create a family is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the European Convention on Human Rights – all of which Italy has ratified.
Italy should immediately reinstate the women removed from their children’s birth certificates and drop its ban on the registration of children born to same-sex couples. Authorities should pass inclusive parental recognition bills that explicitly recognize the legal parenthood of non-gestational lesbian parents.