Italy’s family minister wants to make it harder for same-sex couples to become parents

ROME, ITALY - JUNE 01: Family and the Disabled Minister Lorenzo Fontana attends the swearing in ceremony of the new government led by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte at Palazzo del Quirinale on June 1, 2018 in Rome, Italy. Law professor Giuseppe Conte has been chosen as Italy's new prime minister by the leader of the 5-Star Movement, Luigi Di Maio, and League leader Matteo Salvini. (Photo by Ernesto S. Ruscio/Getty Images)

The Italian minister for family has condemned same-sex parents who conceive a child abroad using practices “banned by [the Italian] legal system.”

Minister Lorenzo Fontana appeared to suggest that same-sex parents that have children born via surrogacy methods, which remain illegal in Italy, should not be recognised as legal guardians in the country, reports Italian news service Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata (Ansa).

“The present state of family law cannot account for what has happened in recent months on the matter of parental recognition, in terms of registering children conceived abroad by same-sex couples, using practices that are banned under our legal system and that should remain as such,” Fontana told a parliamentary hearing.

Fontana’s comments came after a lesbian couple in the city of Turin had troubles recognising their child, born via IVF in April, after they underwent the procedure in Denmark. After the case received worldwide attention, the mayor of Turin decided to recognise both women as legal parents of the baby, along with the children of two other same-sex couples, in the first instance of this kind in the country.

But the recently appointed minister, who is known for his socially conservative views, refused to recognise these instances, insisting in June that gay families “don’t exist” legally in the country.

Fontana was appointed to his cabinet role as part of the coalition between far right party Northern League and the populist Five Star Movement.

The Northern League politician has a consistent history of opposing LGBT rights, which came under scrutiny after he was appointed to his new job.

In a tense interview with Italian-language newspaper Corriere della Sera, he denied making homophobic comments, saying he was not “against gays.”

Revellers pose in front of the Coliseum during the Gay Pride Parade in Rome in June.  (VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)

“I have many homosexual friends… after all I lived in Brussels for many years where there are many gay people in powerful positions,” he said.

The politician added: “I am Catholic, I do not hide it. And that’s why I believe that the family is the natural one, where a child must have a mother and a father.”

When the interviewer persisted with questions about how he would act towards children of same-sex families, he said: “Ah, for heaven’s sake! There will never be any kind of discrimination towards children.”

Asked if he would respect the rights of Rainbow families—a term often used to refer to children of LGBT parents—Fontana bizarrely suggested they don’t exist.

When informed there are many such families in Italy, he said: “Under the law, they don’t exist right now.”

Same-sex marriage is still illegal in Italy. (Getty)

The chilling suggestion led to protests from LGBT activists, who used the hashtag #NoiEsistiamo (We Exist) on social media to share photos of their Rainbow families with the minister.

Fontana also previously claimed that same-sex marriage, transgender people and immigration would “wipe out our community and our traditions.”

Italy recently ranked as one of the worst countries in Western Europe on LGBT rights, lagging behind many of its neighbours.

Same-sex couples were finally granted some limited recognition when civil unions became legal in June 2016 after a hard-won parliamentary vote. The civil union law excluded adoption rights, leaving a legislative void as to how to recognise children of same-sex couples.