Giving Father's Name to Child Shouldn't Be Automatic: Court

Official says Italian government will support move to end discriminatory practice
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 27, 2022 3:24 PM CDT
Italian Court: Give Children Names of Both Parents
Italy's Constitutional Court in Rome.   (Getty/walencienne)

Children should not automatically be given the father's surname at birth, a court in Italy has ruled, calling the traditional practice "discriminatory and harmful to the identity" of the child. Newborns should receive the surnames of both parents, the court said in a statement, the Guardian reports. Parents should decide the order, or decide to give their child just one surname, the statement said. "Both parents should be able to share the choice of a surname, which is a fundamental element for one’s personal identity," the court said.

Under the current law, Italian families have been unable to give a child the mother's surname unless the mother is single or the father refuses to be part of the child's life, the New York Times reports. The ruling requires legislation approved by Parliament to have the force of law. Elena Bonetti, Italy's family minister, posted online that the administration would support the move.

"We need to give substance [to the decision] ... and it is a high priority and urgent task of politics to do so," Bonetti said, per the Guardian. The parents should assume equal responsibility in raising their child, she added. Lawmaker Cecilia D’Elia, a leader on women's issues, also praised the decision, the Times reports. The top court's decision has "canceled the last patriarchal legacy in family law," D'Elia said. "The mother’s name will have the same dignity as the father’s, a sign of civilization." (More surnames stories.)

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