Twin boys born to a gay Italian couple via a surrogate in California ran into trouble being recognized as Italian citizens and being recognized as the sons of their parents. Surrogacy is illegal in Italy and other couples have faced trouble having their children recognized as theirs by Italian courts.
In a surprising twist, in this case the Italian court ruled that the boys are twins, but are not brothers. Each father contributed the sperm for one child. The court said that each man could claim the child that was genetically connected to him. Both children were conceived using eggs from the same egg donor.
Despite this contradiction, Famiglie Arcobaleno, a nongovernmental organization advocating the rights of same-sex parents and their children, has hailed the court’s decision as a “positive step.” “It’s the first time that an Italian court has established that a child’s best interest comes before [the legality of] how he or she was born,” the NGO’s president, Marilena Grassadonia, told The Washington Post in a telephone interview. The group has helped the two men in their court case.
“The children’s interest was to have a parent,” Grassadonia said. “Also, until now the babies were only U.S. citizens, but finally their fathers can pass their Italian citizenship to them.”
And perhaps they are right.
Surrogacy itself is stigmatized and referred to by the local media by the derogatory term “utero in affitto,” or “womb for rent.” Even after a child is born, there’s no guarantee that its best interests will be more important than adhering to the ban. Italian authorities have gone so far as to take children away from their parents. Three years ago, a court in Cremona, a town in northern Italy, took a toddler away from his parents, a straight married couple, after it was discovered he was born in Ukraine to a surrogate mother. Another child born in Ukraine via a surrogate was separated from his family in the town of Brescia and was declared “adoptable” by the country’s rough equivalent of the Supreme Court in 2014.
Grassadonia adds that these particular twins were likely never really in danger of being removed from their parents. But NGOs such as Famiglie Arcobaleno are working with gay couples to find countries “where the rights of surrogates are respected,” she said. “California and Canada are our preferred destinations.”