ROME (AP) – The leader of Italy’s opposition Democratic Party called a bureaucratic crackdown on LGBTQ families ideological, cruel and discriminatory and vowed on Saturday to enforce laws to better recognize and protect their rights.
Elly Schlein, who revealed in 2020 that she was in a relationship with another woman, joined thousands of people at a demonstration in Milan to protest a move by the far-right Italian government to limit the rights of parents in same-sex relationships.
The Interior Ministry this week forced Milan to limit parental rights to the biological parent when same-sex couples register their children with the city.
Such registrations are required so that parents can have their relationship with a child recognized for purposes such as approving medical treatment or attending school trips. The National Government Prefecture for Milan cited a loophole in limiting that power to a biological parent.
LGBTQ rights activists have criticized the move as evidence of the government’s discrimination against families of same-sex couples.
Party leader Schlein has never made her sexual orientation a prominent part of her politics, and she did not address Saturday’s protest from the main stage.
As the protest drew to a close, she spoke to reporters and accused Prime Minister Giorgia Meroni’s government of “cruelly beating” the children of gay parents and denying them rights.
“We talk about rights being trampled on when they are already recognized by our constitution. We’re talking about girls and boys who are already growing up in our communities and attending our schools,” Schlein said in comments streamed by Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. “This is no longer acceptable. These families are fed up with being discriminated against.”
The prefectural decree also states that parental rights must be limited to the biological parent even for children of same-sex couples who were first registered in other member countries of the European Union.
LGBTQ rights groups say the underlying decision by an Italian Senate commission to block recognition of EU documents puts Italy in line with countries like Poland and Hungary, strong allies of the Meloni government.
“This declining majority has inexplicably slammed ideologically at children,” Schlein said. “It contradicts a European regulation that stipulates a trifle, namely that if you are recognized as a daughter or son in another European country, you must also be recognized in Italy.”
The government has not commented on the Milan directive. Meloni, who has a daughter with her partner, has frequently promoted her Christian faith and family-friendly values.
Schlein said she will push to open a debate on legislation to fill the legal loophole that led to the crackdown.
Francesca Pascale, former longtime companion of ex-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, also took part in the protests on Saturday. Pascale, who is now in a same-sex relationship with another woman, slammed Berlusconi’s ruling allies as “homophobic”. S
“The sovereignists of this country treat us worse than criminals,” she said. “Civil rights are rights for everyone.”
Follow AP’s coverage of LGBTQ issues at https://apnews.com/hub/lgbtq-people
Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press