A court in Italy has ruled that a gay couple cannot register their twin 15-month-olds as their legal children, despite being biologically related to the boys.
Italy offers civil partnerships to same-sex couples, but not adoption. So, in 2015, the men—who have requested anonymity—went to California, where they each provided a sperm sample and a surrogate gave birth to their two boys.
But when the couple returned to Milan, a clerk refused to transcribe the babies’ American birth certificates, barring them men from registering the boys as their legal children.
An Italian court upheld that decision in part, ruling that each man can now register his biological son as his own. But the babies cannot be recognized as both of their children, nor can they be considered brothers—even though they have the same mother.
Only straight couples are allowed to use in vitro fertilization in Italy, and they must use their own egg and sperm—donating either is illegal. And surrogacy, in some ways, is more stigmatized than homosexuality: Children have been taken away from their parents when it was discovered they were born via surrogates.
Individual gay couples have won the right to adopt—including a lesbian couple in Rome that simultaneously adopted each other’s daughters—but the country’s knotty legal system makes it nearly impossible to set precedent.
So perhaps it’s not surprising that Marilena Grassadonia of Famiglie Arcobaleno (“Rainbow Family”) called the ruling a “positive step.”
“It’s the first time that an Italian court has established that a child’s best interest comes [first]…” Grassadonia, who advocates for same-sex parents, told The Washington Post. “The children’s interest was to have a parent.”
Grassadonia also pointed out that the babies also get Italian citizenship—”until now they were only U.S. citizens.”
That, unfortunately, is cold comfort.