An Italian Man’s Battle for Recognition as Father Sparks Call for Overhaul of Italy’s Same-Sex Parenting Laws
An Italian man who faced a challenging legal battle to be recognized as the father of his child after his husband passed away is calling for a significant change in Italy’s strict laws regarding same-sex parents. This case has shed light on the urgent need for legislation that protects the rights of children in same-sex married couples, as highlighted by the couple’s lawyer.
A Flawed Legal System
Italy currently lacks a law that allows both parents in same-sex couples to have their names included on their child’s birth certificate. Although some courts have ruled in favor of allowing these couples to adopt each other’s children, and certain mayors have registered births to both partners in same-sex unions, the absence of clear legislation leaves room for inconsistencies and challenges.
Since the rise of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s government, characterized as the most right-wing Italy has seen since fascism, a campaign to defend “traditional” families has been underway. In January, the government issued an order calling for a halt to the registration of some same-sex parents’ children. Consequently, several birth certificates, some dating back to 2017, have since been challenged, leading parents and activists to believe that this order has impacted decisions to contest the certificates and crack down on LGBTQ+ parents’ rights.
A Heartbreaking Loss and Legal Battle
The case centers around Erminio Lissana, a 57-year-old man who tragically lost his husband, Marco Tagliabue, 50, to a heart attack in August of the previous year. Mr. Lissana vividly recalls the devastating moment he received a phone call from the Carabinieri informing him of his husband’s collapse and subsequent passing. Grieving the loss of his partner, Mr. Lissana was suddenly thrust into a legal battle to gain legal guardianship of their child, Elia, who was born through surrogacy in the United States.
When Elia was born in 2015, the couple, aware of the restrictive Italian law that prohibited both parents’ names on the birth certificate, made the difficult decision to register Elia with only Mr. Tagliabue’s name, with the hope of rectifying the situation in the future. However, when Mr. Tagliabue unexpectedly passed away, Mr. Lissana found himself in a precarious position.
A Race for Legal Recognition
Mr. Lissana immediately took action to obtain legal guardianship of Elia with the assistance of Michele Giarratano, a lawyer specializing in family law and LGBTQ+ issues. Their objective was to have Elia’s U.S. birth certificate, recognizing both Mr. Tagliabue and Mr. Lissana as parents, acknowledged in Italy. In April, they succeeded in achieving this significant milestone. However, Mr. Giarratano describes this case as “very complicated,” highlighting that similar requests had been previously denied by the supreme court of cassation on two occasions.
Urgent Need for Change
This story comes on the heels of another case in Trento, northern Italy, where a couple urgently appealed for stepchild adoption after the biological father fell seriously ill. Through Mr. Giarratano’s efforts, the couple successfully obtained stepchild adoption in under four months, a strikingly short period compared to the typical one to three years required for such a process.
According to the lawyer, this case underscores the limitations of adoption as the sole means of safeguarding these children. In the event of a sudden death, the child may become an orphan. The absence of legislation recognizing both parents from birth creates a precarious situation that can potentially endanger the child’s well-being.
Both Mr. Lissana and Mr. Giarratano emphasize the urgent necessity for a law that acknowledges both parents in same-sex couples from the moment of their child’s birth. Their argument stresses that these children, born from the desire of both parents, deserve the same legal recognition granted to children of opposite-sex couples. Despite some Italian mayors independently registering the children of same-sex couples, the recent challenges faced highlight the instability of this solution.
Erminio Lissana’s battle for recognition as the father of his child reflects the broader fight for equal rights for same-sex parents in Italy. This case has shed light on the need for comprehensive legislation that protects the rights of these families and eliminates the legal uncertainties they currently face. While progress has been made in certain instances, there is a clear and pressing need for consistent laws that recognize and respect the rights of all parents, regardless of their sexual orientation.