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The Italian Parliament recently revealed its preparations to debate a civil unions bill for same-sex couples. While Italy seems to be taking a step toward equality, some lawmakers have proposed an amendment that would punish couples who pursue international surrogacy.
Trudy Ring of the Advocate writes, “The amendment would require same-sex couples entering into a civil union to prove they had not used the services of a surrogate from another country.”
According to Agence France-Presse, the penalty is harsh. The non-biological father would not be permitted to adopt the child, and the judge would have the discretion to place the child in temporary care or up for adoption.
The Agence France-Presse continues, “The punishment for using an overseas surrogate would be a prison term of up to two years and a fine of up to 1 million euros, whether or not the practice is legal in the surrogate’s home country. There are already penalties like this for the use of a surrogate within Italy.”
Activists for equality are up in arms about this proposed amendment. Gabriele Piazzoni of Arcigay calls the proposal downright indecent.
“A law intended to recognize rights cannot be transformed into a criminalizing one that talks about prison,” he said.
I am incredibly pleased that Italy’s government is potentially falling in line with other Western European countries by recognizing the right of same-sex couples to enter into legal relationships.
Italy is leaning in the right direction where this is concerned.
On the other hand, while I’m fully aware of Italy’s conservatism in relation to surrogacy, the proposed amendment disproportionately burdens same-sex couples who desperately want children.
The process of adoption is notoriously difficult and nearly impossible throughout most of Europe. If Italy passes this amendment, condemning those who pursue international surrogacy, it would crush the dream of family for those whose only viable option to have children is through surrogacy.
As a third-party reproductive law attorney, I have had couples from Italy who express concerns that they will be sent to jail or that the Italian government will intervene and take their children. I remind them about the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECHR) ruling. The ECHR ruled that even in a country where surrogacy is illegal, a child born through surrogacy still has a right to his or her nationality. These children are no longer living in a stateless status. They can be recognized citizens of their country and can also be registered in the national registry.
This is a human rights issue. No matter how a child is created, that child has a right to become a citizen of his parents’ country and to and avail himself to the rights of his home country. This decision was historic and groundbreaking.
If the civil union bill passes the Italian Senate, it will then be sent to the other branch of Parliament, the Chamber of Deputies, for another round of debates. We will have to wait and see whether Italy’s equal rights bill will pass, and if so, whether the penalties for those who resort to international surrogacy to complete their families are included.