Gay parents recognised by Italian court in historical ruling

The Court of Appeal of Trento has recognised (North-Eastern Italy), for the first time in the history of the country, the validity of the birth certificate of a foreign state (Canada) indicating double fatherhood, implementing for the first time provisions issued by the Court of Cassation. This clearly acknowledges the legal status of same sex parents. Both children, who are now aged seven, were born in Canada to a surrogate mother through artificial insemination. The judges ruled that the biological link between a parent and a child should not be the only determining element, maintaining parental responsibility may have a greater role in the recognition of the parenthood legal status.

It is the first time that, in the history of Italian law, a court recognises two fathers and the necessity of safeguarding the needs of the child. As pointed out by the couple’s lawyer, Mr Alexander Schuster, the court has recognised full parenthood and not just adoption, acknowledging for the first time, a foreign provision granting the second father the status of “parent”.

Italy’s parliament approved civil partnership unions between same sex couples in May 2016 in the face of fierce opposition from politicians and the Catholic Church.   However, Italian law has a long way to go compared to other countries and still prevents couples from resorting to surrogates mothers. In fact the practice is criminalised; couples caught attempting to enter into a surrogacy arrangement may even face up to two years in prison and fines up to one million euros.  In the recent past a same sex couple who accessed the services of a Ukrainian surrogate mother found themselves charged with fraud and their child removed from their custody and put up for adoption.  It does not seem that this tough attitude towards same sex parenthood will change in the immediate future, despite the current ruling, as the Italian foreign minister, Angelino Alfano, maintains that surrogacy should be treated as a “sex crime”.   

Italy is moving in the direction of tolerance and acceptance of same sex parenthood but it will take some time yet before Italy has parity with other countries in this regard.