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The decision last week by a juvenile court in Rome to allow one of the partners in a lesbian relationship to adopt the child of the other, a practice known as stepchild adoption, has launched a public battle between homosexual lobbyists and those speaking out for the traditional family in Italy. The case is a first in Italy, and is considered a major step forward for the homosexualist movement that identifies legalization of stepchild adoption as a major platform plank.

La Repubblica, the country’s leading far-left newspaper, reported that the “two mothers” said, “We are happy, almost incredulous at this result that was expected for years and that is a victory for the children.” The now-five-year-old girl, the paper reports, was conceived abroad through artificial reproductive technologies, using “donor sperm.” The identity of the father is unknown.

The decision was hailed by Ivan Scalfarotto, the promoter of the country’s pending “anti-homophobia” law that awaits further debate in Parliament, who said it gave “hope for thousands of families the Rainbow.”

The court based its decision on the adoption law, amended in 2001, that says it is in the best interest of the child to remain in the home of the “social” parent in cases where “the emotional relationship and cohabitation has already been successfully consolidated over time” and regardless of “sexual orientation” of the prospective adoptive parent.

The women’s attorney, Maria Antonia Pili, president of the Italian Association of Lawyers for Family and Minors, said, “We hope that this ruling could help them. We suggest to many other same-sex couples to come out.”

The reaction was immediate from those who are working against the Scalfarotto bill and from family leaders. An editorial in Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference, said the child may have been adopted, but will now grow up without a father.

Avvenire quoted Monsignor Fabio Bruno Pighin, professor of canon law at the Pius X Faculty in Venice, who said that the moral issue is confused by the fact that the child in question is a “daughter of desire,” one created to satisfy the desires of the two women. The teaching authority of the Church has long warned that the practices of artificial procreation would tend to turn children into expensive, manufactured luxury commodities, created to fulfill the desires of adults.

“Children are always [to be] welcomed, protected, to grow with all the commitment required,” Msgr. Pighin said. Catholic teaching emphasizes the right of the child to be raised by a mother and father within the context of the natural family.

“One does not understand how it can be justified by the highest and best interests of the child,” he added. “In fact, the child in question is now deprived of a father figure, in the middle of two ‘mothers’.” 

Francesco D’Agostino, professor of philosophy of law at the University of Rome Tor Vergata and president of the Union of Italian Catholic Jurists, said it was inappropriate for an unelected court to make such a momentous decision unilaterally, rather than leaving it to the legislature. “The judge, in short, has endorsed a situation that Italian law does not recognize,” he said.

“Only the people, through their representatives, may decide,” he said. “And if I can accept, albeit with difficulty, a legislation on bioethics that goes against my values, because it was taken by a parliament that represents the majority of the population, certainly I cannot accept that people without political legitimacy can make decisions and make irrevocable changes to public opinion.” 

He noted that legislators are planning on bringing forward legislation on “de facto couples and maybe even on same-sex marriage,” this year. “So why did the judges not have the greatest respect for the institutions, did not want to wait?”

Meanwhile, the court’s decision has been the focus of a highly publicized clash between supporters and opponents of the homosexualist movement. An Italian photographer, Oliviero Toscani, has threatened to sue a political party for using one of his photos, originally intended to promote the homosexualist lobby, to oppose the Rome court’s decision.

Toscani, a supporter of the homosexualist movement, had taken the photo as part of a campaign to promote adoption by homosexuals in France. He messaged the Fratelli d’Italia  (Brothers of Italy) on Twitter, saying, “But what comes into your head, Fratelli d’ItaIia, to use a picture of mine for such a thing? It will be reported.”

The Fratelli d’Italia, a conservative political party, had used the photo to highlight the disconnect between the homosexualist movement’s goals and the needs of children, posting the photo to their website with the caption, “A child is not a whim.” After Toscani’s Twitter complaint, the party issued a statement through the national broadcaster, RAI television, saying the use of the photo was “not an official initiative.”

“We apologize for what happened because we respect the copyright,” they said.

The Fratelli’s spokesman, Carlo Fidanza, added, “There remain all the reasons for a campaign that started before the summer and certainly we do not regret it. The only really unfortunate thing is that I have received death threats, even on my mail. It scared me, the level of intolerance on the part of those who complain of being discriminated against, as well as the fact that we cannot discuss these issues without being threatened or offended.”

One of Italy’s leading parliamentary opponents of the anti-homophobia bill, Eugenia Roccella, said the “non-trivial aspect of this very trivial affair, is that it highlights the ambiguity of the term ‘homophobia.’”

“The same image lends itself to opposing interpretations: if you know that the author is Toscani, it is refined and pro gay, but if it is attributed to the Fratelli d’Italia it is vulgar and homophobic.” 

“What would happen if the crime of homophobia already existed,” Roccella asked, if the same photo had been published either by Toscani, for his purpose or by the Fratelli d’Italia, for theirs?


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