In European countries including France, Germany and Spain, children can be given both of their parents’ surnames. Italy, on the other hand, has been reluctant to recognize the mother’s family line in this way. However, the country’s highest court just overturned the tradition of automatically naming babies after their father, calling the practice “discriminatory and harmful” to the child’s identity.
Elena Bonetti, the Italian minister for Equal Opportunities and Family, shared a post on Facebook with the news.
“Today, the Constitutional Court ruled illegal the rules stipulating the automatic assignment of the paternal surname to children,” reads the English translation of Bonetti’s post. “Already in the past, the [court] had shone a beacon on the discriminatory nature of such automatism, both towards children and mothers.”
“Today comes back to remind us that the time has come to change: we need to give body, even in the assignment of the surname, to that equal responsibility between mothers and fathers that is in the parental choice, and it is a high and urgent task of politics to get it done,” the post continues. “Let’s move forward quickly and together on this road, which I have repeatedly urged to take. As a minister, I guarantee to the Parliamentary process all the support of the government to take another fundamental step in achieving equal rights between the women and men of our country.”
In one case that the court reviewed before making its landmark decision, a family had three children. The two oldest kids carried their mother’s last name because the parents were not married, and the father did not initially recognize them. The parents were seeking legal recourse because they could not give the third child, born after the couple married, the same surname as her siblings.
“For them it was a matter of family identity,” Giampaolo Brienza, one of the family’s lawyers, told The New York Times. “One of the eldest siblings is 14, she could not take a different surname all of a sudden.”
The Italian Parliament must approve new legislation to implement the decision. The court’s recommendation is that parents should be able to give children both surnames in the order they decide unless they mutually agree that their child should only have one of them.