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10th Dec 2023

Far right in Italy and Spain target rainbow families and flags

  • Protestor wrapped in a rainbow flag, which is now will no longer be used in a small village of Valencia (Photo: Brett Sayles - Pexels)
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Italy is debating a crackdown on surrogate parents, seen as an attack on LGBTI families, while Spain's far-right party goes after the rainbow flag.

Italian MPs are debating a law that would make it illegal for Italian citizens to engage a surrogate mother in another country, with prison terms of up to three years and fines of up to €1m.

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A 2004 law already banned surrogacy in Italy.

The new surrogacy regime is backed by prime minister Georgia Meloni and adds to fears in Italy's LGBTI community that her far-right government will erode their civil rights.

The proposed ban would also apply to opposite-sex couples, but critics see that as camouflage for its real intention — to stop homosexual couples raising children.

The surrogacy bill comes in a wider context of curbs on non-biological parents, which have already hurt many 'rainbow families'.

A top court in Italy ruled last year that non-biological parents cannot automatically be listed on children's birth records, and need to go through the long legal process of adoption in order to be formally recognised.

Some mayors did add non-biological parents when processing birth certificates from abroad, in defiance of the ruling.

And Italian opposition MP Chiara Appendino, who did so when serving as mayor of Turin, warned that the harsh consequences of the new surrogacy law "will be paid by the children", AP reported.

The prosecutors' office in the Italian city of Padua this week also demanded that non-biological parents be removed from the birth certificates of 33 children registered to lesbian couples since 2017.

The children can no longer even use their non-biological parent's surname.

"The Italian decision is monstrous, because it simply amounts to the administrative removal of a child from one of its parents on the grounds of homosexuality," French liberal MEP Pierre Karleskind said earlier this week.

"We cannot let children be the victims of this despicable far-right crusade against rainbow families," he said.

'Deserves the best'

Meloni was raised by a single mother and is herself an unmarried parent.

But she wants to be seen as a defender of Christian values against what she calls "gender ideology" and the "LGBTI lobby".

"A child deserves only the best: a mother and a father," she said in March.

But if her anti-LGBTI rhetoric is meant to be populist, that kind of discourse appears to be less and less popular with Italian public opinion.

An Ipsos poll last June showed that 63 percent of Italians backed marriage rights for gay people — up 15 points from 2013.

It also said 59 percent were in favour of gay adoptions — an increase of 17 points from nine years ago, Reuters reported.

The EU has not passed any laws specifically on the rights of rainbow families, as it has no competence in family law in general.

But EU jurisprudence and the political mood in the EU capital also go against Meloni-type anti-rainbow attacks.

"Family law is a national competence," said EU Commission spokesman Christian Wiegand.

But he also said: "Our position on parental rights in cross-border cases is that if one is a parent in one member state and is recognised as such in one member state, other member states must recognise that parenthood".

In a landmark ruling, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) said in December 2021 that same-sex parents and their children should be recognised as a family in all EU member states.

The ECJ said at the time that if one EU country acknowledged the parental relationship with a child, then every member state should do the same in order to guarantee the child's right to free movement.

Koen Lenaerts, the then ECJ president, also argued in an article in 2009 that once EU law had been triggered "no area of national law — not even areas traditionally reserved to the member states — remains a 'safe haven'."

Last December, the commission proposed new rules aiming to ensure that parenthood rights are respected when people move within the bloc, particularly protecting the rights of same-sex parents who move through the EU with their children.

And the European Parliament in a resolution in March said it was "worried about the current global anti-rights, anti-gender, and anti-LGBTIQ movements, which are fuelled by some political and religious leaders around the world, including within the EU".

MEPs added that they "strongly condemn the spread of such rhetoric by some influential political leaders and governments in the EU, such as in Hungary, Poland, and Italy".

Spain's far-right attacks against rainbow flag

Earlier this week, Estonia became the first former Soviet state to legalise same-sex marriage.

That put it ahead of Italy, where same-sex civil unions have been legal since 2016, but where homosexual marriage remains taboo.

But if Estonia's move marked a watershed for central Europe, which lags behind the EU's north and west on LGBTI rights, then developments in Spain echoed Meloni's political technology.

Following last month's regional elections, an alliance of Spain's centre-right People's Party (PP) and far-right Vox has agreed to stop using the rainbow flag on public buildings in a small village in Valencia.

The coalition also agreed to substitute language against "gender-based violence" for the condemnation of violence in general in official papers.

The village crackdown has raised public concern amid fears it could be rolled out nationally, if PP wins the general election on 23 July and forms a coalition government with Vox.

Earlier this week in Madrid, Vox paid for a huge billboard campaign denigrating feminist, rainbow, communist, and Catalan independence logos in a mixed bag of hate.

"Decide what matters," the billboard slogan said.

When asked to comment on the recent announcements made in Spain on Wednesday, the commission refused to do so.

The EU executive has "a very clear stance on LGBTI equality" and "on protecting women and girls from violence," said a commission spokesperson.

"Too many politicians, media and online platforms are trying to sell their LGBTI-phobia as a legitimate political stance, while it's just hate. This is the case in Poland, Hungary and now in certain regions of Spain where the PP together with the extreme right are trying to repeal everything we have achieved so far," socialist group leader Spanish MEP Iratxe García Pérez told EUobserver.

The commission in the past rejected EU grants for Polish towns which declared their communities to be LGBTI-free.

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