In 2018, Maria Silvia Fiengo and Francesca Pardi were among Italy’s first same-sex couples to be registered as parents.
The mayor of Milan, Giuseppe Sala, took a progressive stance and allowed children born to parents of the same gender to be acknowledged in the absence of clear national legislation.
For Maria Silvia and Francesca – and their four children Margherita, twins Giorgio and Raffaele, and Antonio – being finally recognised as a household after years of legal challenges and discrimination was “truly incredible”.
This week, however, what was then seen as a major victory for equality and acceptance by the LGBT community was reversed.
Italy’s right-wing government instructed Milan’s city council to stop registering the children of same-sex parents, reigniting a debate around Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s conservative agenda.
Hundreds of people protested against the government ban in Milan on Saturday.
The newly elected leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, Elly Schlein, was among them. She said her message to the prime minister was “not to discriminate against the daughters and sons of these wonderful families”.
“We are talking about boys and girls already growing up in our communities and going to our schools,” Ms Schlein said. “It is no longer tolerable, and these families are tired of being discriminated against.”
Ms Meloni, who leads the far-right Brothers of Italy party, made anti-LGBT rhetoric a cornerstone of her electoral campaign, promising to protect traditional values.
“We were always a family, but being officially recognised as such by our own mayor made us feel welcome,” said Maria Silvia Fiengo. “Today, looking at what the government is doing, and knowing that other families won’t be able to have the same opportunity, we feel discouraged.”
Italy legalised same-sex civil unions in 2016 under a centre-left government.
However, stiff resistance from Catholic and conservative groups meant that the law stopped short of granting adoption rights to same-sex couples as well. Opponents said it would encourage surrogate pregnancies, which are still illegal in Italy.
That left a regulatory vacuum surrounding several aspects of LGBT family life, including adoption. Solutions aimed at getting around bureaucratic hurdles were reached on a case-by-case basis, as cases went to court.
Some local administrators, including the centre-left mayor of Milan, decided that children of same-sex couples would be registered independently.
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