A top court in Italy has made a ruling that will change how a baby’s surname is decided in the country. Now, instead of the default surname being the father’s, newborns will carry both parents’ surnames, making their baby name and full name a combination of the two.
The Italian Constitutional Court in Rome made a ruling that automatically assigning children with the surname of only their father is constitutionally illegitimate. The court went further to say that parents should be able to have a say in their kid’s surname since it constitutes a “fundamental element of personal identity.”
Now, moving forward, parents need to mutually agree on the order of the surnames and a child will have both. The court did leave an option for a child to be given only one surname, should both parents agree. This would mark the first time it’s possible for kids in Italy to carry only the last name of their mom, and it will apply to kids born to married or unmarried parents and adopted children.
This ruling came after Italian parents sought to give their newborn baby the last name of the mother only. In the family, the two older kids carry only their mom’s last name, and the parents wanted their new baby’s name to align with their siblings. Their request was denied because the law only allowed for either the father’s last name or a hyphenated name with both surnames.
Domenico Pittella, a lawyer for the family, told The Washington Post that the ruling was a “landmark judgment,” adding that the new ruling has “acknowledged that it is in the best interest of the newborn child that the choices of his parents” are what dictates what their name will be and not have a name that’s “imposed by an outdated model of the patriarchal family.”
In the United States, it’s still uncommon for kids to have the last name of their mother and not their dad. In 2002, researchers found that 97 percent of married couples gave their kids only the father’s last name. In 2017, the number dropped slightly to 96 percent, a figure that remains relatively the same today even though numbers for kids being born to single parents and women choosing to keep their own last name have increased.
As for the ruling in Italy, the legislature is now focusing on passing the laws that specify how the new surname ruling will be implemented. And it’s being touted as a necessary step to start to close the gender inequality gap in the country.