Italy’s Left Has Left Out Parenting Rights

by Victoria Scarlett Brizzi

The election of Giorgia Meloni as Italian Prime Minister in October 2022 underlined the weakness of the left-wing as represented by the Partito Democratico (PD). This new breeze of Conservative politics on the right-wing in Italy has been built around Meloni’s commitment to traditional family values imbued with Catholic rhetoric. The election of Meloni has raised concerns about basic civil and human rights, in particular for the LGBTQ+ community. Although some progress has been made in recent years in Italy, such as the legalisation of civil unions for same-sex couples in 2016, there is a long road ahead before the LGBTQ+ community can enjoy the same rights and protections as their heterosexual counterparts. Limitations remain around parenthood, with artificial insemination remaining illegal for non-heterosexual couples and surrogacy for all citizens. As a result of this, many Italians undertake these procedures abroad, often at a significant financial cost. Another problem that remains unresolved is that of the legal recognition of parenthood for both partners of same-sex couples. Decisions on this right have been at the discretion of municipalities, and, since last December, the latter have been discouraged from automatically recognising individuals who undergo certain procedures abroad.

Developments in Milan have recently brought this issue to the forefront of the political debate. The city was one of the few in Italy where such parenthood was automatically recognised. However, on March 13, Mayor Giuseppe Sala announced that this procedure would no longer be permitted, following a solicitation from the Interior Ministry urging all prefects to stop automatic registration. In the case of surrogacy and artificial insemination overseas, all non-biological parents will no longer be recognised as such in their child’s census. Currently, children in Milan are waiting to be registered and their rights are at risk. These children will be raised, supported, and loved by two parent figures, but legally only one of them will be regarded as their mother or father. If, for example, the registered parent was to pass away, the child would be considered an orphan and would pass under the jurisdiction of social services.

Giuseppe Sala, the mayor of Milan, has undergone criticism for his decision to concur with the Minister of the Interior’s request. Sala, who is not affiliated with any major Italian political party but became a member of the European Green party in 2021, has said that this situation puts many families at risk, and that his decision derived from the necessity to conform to the judiciary and not render the situation problematic for his municipal employees. In a time when inclusivity of gender and sexuality is becoming increasingly widespread and at a moment when migration crises, organised crime, brain drain, and high rates of femicides are highly prevalent in Italy, these are exactly the issues that should be prioritised by Sala and the left in general. As it stands, Sala’s action seems to be in line with the left’s tendency to moderate and compromise.

What was apparent during the elections in 2022 was that the PD lacked a clear campaign strategy and failed to connect with younger voters, who are precisely the demographic that is advocating for more equality and inclusivity. A weakness of the PD has been its failure to adequately protect and advance the rights of the LGBT+ community, both on healthcare access and protection from violence. The left has attempted, to no avail, to tackle issues such as hate crimes with the failed 2021 law proposal Zan and conversion therapy with the failed law proposal no. 2402 in 2016, and legislation remains lacking in these areas.

However, there is some cause for optimism with the election of new PD leader Elly Schlein. She, herself, is a member of the LGBTQ+ community and has expressed great dissatisfaction with the situation, participating in the demonstrations that took place in the city of Milan in March. Her more progressive take on such issues should allow for greater scrutiny by Meloni and her coalition, and it is to be hoped that this translates into effective policy change in Italy in the coming years. It surely is time for the political class to respond to the demands of the younger generations and be more in tune with their values. Having a representative of the left who is more in line with such ideals, and one who is finally bringing to the table the representation of women and LGBTQ+ rights, is certainly a promising step in the right direction. 
Rainbow flags, drag shows, and speeches of equality and love, whilst undeniably fundamental to revolutionising societal biases and opinions, lose meaning when concrete legal rights are lacking. What occurred in Milan in March sets a precedent for other cities and municipalities, threatening the rights of same-sex couples, who must maintain the right guaranteed to all other citizens to have children and be considered a family. The EU has condemned Italy, once again putting the country in a negative spotlight. The government’s new ideological battle puts the LGBTQ+ minority and their right to a family at risk, symbolising a necessity for the PD to learn from its mistakes and push harder to counteract this outlook. It remains to be seen whether the next twelve months will demonstrate if Schlein’s beliefs can be translated from words into action.

Victoria Brizzi is a 20-year-old Italian and American student from Rome and Philadelphia. She is currently pursuing her BA in International Affairs with a minor in Legal Studies at John Cabot University, in Rome, Italy. Her main areas of research and study are human rights, international law, and diplomacy, in which she hopes to pursue a career after graduate school. This piece has emerged out of a research assistantship with Professor Nicholas Startin on the Emergence of the Radical Right and populism in recent European and Italian elections.

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