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Italian Court Rules Children Should Receive Both Parents' Surnames by Default Due to Discrimination

The ruling would go into effect following legislation from parliament


A court in Italy has ruled children should be given both their mother’s and their father’s name.

Giving children only their father’s last name is “discriminatory and harmful to the [child’s] identity” according to the Constitutional Court’s ruling.

Italian parents have had the option to give children both parents’ last names but the government restricted the circumstances under which they could give children their mother’s last name only. Typically, the father has to be unwilling to be a part of the child’s life for the state to acquiesce. 

The high court’s ruling stems from the case of a family in the Basilicata region. The mother’s older children were allowed to go by only her last name. At the time, the children were not legally acknowledged by the father and the couple was unmarried. Later, the couple married, the father claimed the older children, and they had a third child who they wanted to have the mother’s last name as well in order to be congruous with its siblings. They were told this was not possible under national law.

“Both parents should be able to share the choice of a surname, which is a fundamental element for one’s personal identity,” the court ruled according to a translation from The New York Times.

“The country’s parliament will have to pass legislation to implement the court’s decision,” reports USA Today.

On Facebook, Family Minister Elena Bonetti urged parliament to support future legislation on this subject.

“We need to give substance [to the decision] … and it is a high priority and urgent task of politics to do so,” she wrote. 

Bonetti said standardizing the practice of giving both last names to children indicates that both parents should take equal responsibility in their children’s lives, per France 24.

Italian parents will have the option to give only one of their last names to their offspring if they choose but it would not be the default practice.

Because women in Italy traditionally keep their last names, they often do not have the same surname as their children.

The court’s ruling applies to adopted children as well as children whose parents are married or unmarried. Children’s last names would be their father’s last name followed by their mother’s last name.

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