The head of Italy’s opposition party blasted a bureaucratic crackdown on LGBTQ families as ‘ideological’, ‘cruel’ and ‘discriminatory’.
The Interior Ministry this week forced Milan to limit parental rights to the biological parent of children registered by same-sex couples in the city.
Democratic Party leader Elly Schlein, who in 2020 revealed she was in a relationship with another woman, vowed on Saturday to push through legislation to better recognize and protect their rights.
She joined thousands of people at a demonstration in Milan to protest a move by the far-right-led Italian government to restrict the rights of parents in same-sex relationships.
‘You explain to my son that I’m not his mother,’ read one sign held up amid a sea of rainbow flags that filled one of the northern city’s central squares.
Democratic Party leader Elly Schlein, who in 2020 revealed she was in a relationship with another woman, vowed on Saturday to push through legislation to better recognize and protect their rights
LGBTQ protesters hold a rally against the government’s crackdown against same-sex parents in Piazza Scala in Milan
Italy legalised same-sex civil unions in 2016, but opposition from the Catholic Church meant it stopped short of granting gay couples the right to adopt.
Decisions have instead been made on a case-by-case basis by the courts, as parents take legal action, although some local authorities decided to act unilaterally.
Milan had been registering children of same-sex couples conceived overseas through surrogacy – which is illegal in Italy – or medically assisted reproduction, which is only available for heterosexual couples.
But its centre-left mayor Beppe Sala revealed this week that this had stopped after the interior ministry sent a letter insisting that the courts must decide.
‘It is an obvious step backwards from a political and social point of view, and I put myself in the shoes of those parents who thought they could count on this possibility in Milan,’ he said in a podcast, vowing to fight the change.
Fabrizio Marrazzo of the Gay Party said about 20 children are waiting to be registered in Milan, condemning the change as ‘unjust and discriminatory’.
A mother or father who is not legally recognised as their child’s parent can face huge bureaucratic problems, with the risk of losing the child if the registered parent dies or the couple’s relationship breaks down.
Party leader Schlein has never made her sexual orientation a prominent part of her politics, and she didn’t address Saturday’s protest from the main stage.
Italian premier Giorgia Meloni, whose far-right Brothers of Italy party came top in September elections, puts a strong emphasis on traditional family values
Speaking to reporters as the protest wrapped up, she accused the Premier Giorgia Meroni’s government of ‘cruelly lashing out’ at the children of gay parents and denying them rights.
‘We are talking about rights being trampled upon when they are already recognized by our constitution. We are talking about girls and boys already growing up in our communities, going to our schools,’ Schlein said in comments streamed by Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. ‘This is no longer tolerable. These families are tired of being discriminated against.’
Meloni, whose far-right Brothers of Italy party came top in September elections, puts a strong emphasis on traditional family values.
‘Yes to natural families, no to the LGBT lobby!’ she said in a speech last year before her election at the head of a right-wing coalition that includes Matteo Salvini’s anti-immigration League.
The prefecture decree also says parental rights must be limited to the biological parent even for children of same-sex couples who first were registered in other European Union member countries.
LGBTQ rights groups say the underlying decision by an Italian Senate commission to block the recognition of EU documents puts Italy in line with countries such as Poland and Hungary, strong allies of the Meloni government.
‘This retrograde majority has inexplicably lashed out at children ideologically,’ Schlein said.
‘This goes against a European regulation that establishes a trivial thing and that is that if you are recognized as a daughter or son in another European country, you must also be recognized in Italy.’
The government hasn’t commented on the Milan directive. Meloni, who has a daughter with her partner, has frequently touted her Christian faith and pro-family values.
Schlein said she would press to open debate on legislation to close the legal loophole that resulted in the crackdown.
Also attending Saturday’s protest was Francesca Pascale, the former longtime companion of ex-Premier Silvio Berlusconi.
Pascale, who now is in a same-sex union with another woman, blasted Berlusconi’s governing allies as ‘homophobic.’
‘The sovereignists of this country treat us worse than criminals,’ she said. ‘Civil rights are rights for everyone.’