The Italian Defense of Motherhood and Fatherhood

In a move to defend and promote traditional family values, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and her administration have enforced the removal of same-sex parents from birth certificates.

Pope Francis baptized 13 babies on Jan. 8, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, in the Sistine Chapel.
Pope Francis baptized 13 babies on Jan. 8, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, in the Sistine Chapel. (photo: National Catholic Register / Vatican Media)

ROME — Last month, the city of Padua was forced to start removing the names of same-sex parents from the birth certificates of children.

This action is a direct consequence of the last year’s election of Italy’s new national government. Describing herself as “pro-family,” Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has on numerous occasions publicly expressed her firm opposition to laws recognizing abortion, euthanasia and same-sex civil marriage. 

Additionally, she has many times spoken against same-sex parenting, such as at a rally at Piazza del Popolo in October 2019, where she delivered a speech that went viral on Italian social-media platforms.

“I am ashamed of a state that does nothing for families,” Meloni said back in 2019, three years before her election as prime minister last October. “I have no faith in a state that puts the desire of a homosexual to have a child before the right of a child to have a father and a mother.”

Three months after the Italian Supreme Court of Cassation, the country’s highest court, prohibited the inclusion of the names of non-biological same-sex parents on birth certificates in December 2022, Meloni’s Interior Ministry ordered city councils and local authorities in March 2023 to stop registering same-sex couples’ children with the names of both members of same-sex couples.

Overturning the promise of Paduan Mayor Sergio Giordani to eliminate the traditional “mother” and “father” labels from birth certificates, and upholding the request from the public prosecutor’s office based on the Supreme Court’s ruling, at least 27 women in Padua have been removed from 27 birth certificates as of July 20.

“In Italy, marriage can only be between a man and a woman, and therefore only the biological parent’s surname can be registered,” Luca Ciriani, the minister for parliamentary relations in the Meloni cabinet, told RTL radio soon after the news reached the rest of Italy.

By rule, with regards to same-sex couples, only the biological parent may now be named on the birth certificate of the child they are raising. When it comes to female same-sex couples, it follows that only the woman who gave birth can be recognized as the mother on the birth certificate. When it comes to male same-sex couples, the men can choose one to be designated as the legal father through a legal process. In both cases, the non-biological parents have to make a special case for legally adopting the child. 

This may change as well, however, as Meloni is supportive of changing the Italian Constitution to make it illegal for same-sex couples to adopt children.

According to the Supreme Court’s ruling, it is in the best interest of the child for an intended non-biological parent to go through an adoption process rather than to be automatically recognized as a legal parent in the country where the surrogacy arrangement took place. 


A Child’s Right to a Mother and a Father

“This measure is not only an act of civility but above all an act of truth toward children,” Jacopo Coghe, spokesman for the Italian pro-life organization Pro Vita & Famiglia, told the Register. “In fact, no document can change the reality because every child is born to a mother and a father.”

Padua is the first city in Italy to start removing non-biological parents from children’s birth certificates, but it might be a question of time before other cities follow.

Although concerned that there are many “leftist mayors” ready to violate the law by prioritizing “ideological whims” at the expense of children’s rights to a mother and father, Coghe told the Register: “I hope that all mayors as public administrators will abide by the current law and the interior minister's circular, not allowing themselves to be ensnared by the LGBT narrative in which these children would have fewer rights.”

“Every child has the right to have both a father and a mother,” Father Francesco Giordano, director of the Italian office of Human Life International (HLI), told the Register. 

“Men and women are different, not just physically but also psychologically. The role of a father includes teaching his child how to live in the world, and the role of a mother includes creating a home and nurturing her child. You can debate these roles as much as you want, but in the end, this is the truth.” 

According to Father Giordano, not only the elimination of parental roles but the mere absence of a parent of the opposite sex has been shown to have severe detrimental effects on psychological, behavioral and social levels for a child. 

“How can your child experience a mother’s comfort and a father’s direction without having both parents? If you are raised by two mothers or two fathers, how are you going to teach your child to understand the female and male side of human nature?”


The Protection of Human Dignity

While surrogacy is outlawed in Italy, as in many other European countries, the Italian Parliament is currently discussing a bill that would extend the national ban on surrogacy to the use of surrogacy services abroad, even if such services are legal in the country where the surrogacy engagement is undertaken.

The proposed legislation was initially suggested in March 2023 by Meloni’s government, who has long been vocal about her opposition to surrogacy. 

Indeed, Meloni said during a two-day conference on “The General State of the Birth Rate” in May of last year that she wants a nation in which it is not taboo to say that “motherhood is not for sale, that wombs are not for rent, that children cannot be considered products to be chosen from a supermarket shelf and returned if they do not meet our expectations.” 

If approved, individuals found in violation of the law could be subject to an-up-to-two-year imprisonment and a fine up to $1 million.

“The value of this law is the protection of human dignity: first of all that of the unborn child; secondly that of the possibly ‘exploited’ woman,” Coghe from Pro Vita & Famiglia explained. “Human beings can neither be bought nor sold. Regardless of the intention, surrogacy degrades the dignity of human life to that of a material good.”

According to Coghe, the practice should be a universal crime for a variety of reasons: Not only is it a “barbaric practice,” but people circumvent the law by traveling abroad to commit what is considered a crime in their own country.

In addition, if criminalization of surrogacy is extended to the use of surrogacy services abroad, “this will discourage the use of this practice, hopefully putting an end to reproductive tourism and more generally to the fertility market.”

“A child is a gift from God,” Father Giordano added. “But nowadays, because of increased infertility and other reasons, many people turn to surrogacy because they want a child at all cost. But, of course, one cannot purchase a child or make a market out of fertility. The Church is very clear on this subject,” Father Giordano pointed out, mentioning Donum Vitae, Evangelium Vitae and Dignitatis Personae as some important reference points.

In the latest Court Cassation judgment, the court emphasized how the prohibition of surrogacy is rooted in human-rights concerns, as the practice violates women’s dignity and poses a threat to children’s right to identity. The document states: “In surrogacy, it is not only the parental wishes, aspirations and plans of the commissioning couple that are at stake. There are actual people. There are women used as instruments for reproductive functions, with their inalienable rights annulled or suspended within contractual procedures. There are children exposed to a practice that determines uncertainties about their status and, therefore, their identity in society” (Motivi della decisione, 2).


Return to the Roots

Although Coghe and Father Giordano both hold that the family, “the fundamental nucleus of society, the place par excellence of solidarity, acceptance, security and love,” according to Coghe, is currently under attack and that the measures taken by the Italian government are good and encouraging, both pro-life advocates underlined that the finish line is distant.

“What the Italian government is doing politically is important, but it is not enough,” Father Giordano said. “We have to work culturally, and we have to work to move the thoughts and hearts of people, and this is where the Church comes in.”

Similarly, Coghe explained that the new legal landscape “won't really change anything because, at the end of the day, the birth certificates are only about giving the adult recognition of parental status. We are not talking about giving rights to children but only about granting privileges to adults, obtained through a rented uterus.”

Closely linked to the gender and transgender movement, Father Giordano argued, same-sex parenting and surrogacy touch upon transhumanism and posthumanism. They are “attacks on man, attempts to kill humanity.” 

Referring to the late Pope Benedict XVI’s book Senza Radici (Without Roots), which examines the cultural and spiritual challenges faced by Europe in the modern world and explores how Europe's increasing detachment from its Christian heritage has led to a crisis of identity and values, Father Giordano explained that “only by preserving the family can we preserve humanity.”

“A Europe founded on economics is not Europe. Europe is not about science, politics or economics. The heart of Europe is Christendom. The strength of Europe is Christ. Once we are able to return to these roots, we will be able to resist all attacks.”

Father Giordano noted, “These recently taken political decisions may not lead us all the way back to our roots, but they are a step in the right direction.”

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