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Swiss and Italian courts move towards parental rights for same-sex couples

1 September 2014
Appeared in BioNews 769

Judges in two European countries with restrictive laws governing IVF and surrogacy have taken steps towards recognising non-biological parents in same-sex relationships as the legal parents of children born through assisted conception.

A regional court in Switzerland has recognised two men as the legal parents of a child born via a surrogacy arrangement with a woman in the USA, despite operating a ban on surrogacy. The men, one of whom is the child's biological father, sought to have the child's Californian birth certificate recognised by the Swiss federal authorities.

The certificate was issued after a Californian court found that the surrogate mother and her husband, who under Swiss law would be recognised as the child's legal parents, did not want to exercise their parental rights or have responsibility for the child. Karin Hochl, the lawyer for the two men, said: 'The administrative court recognised the American judgment'.

Gay Star News says that despite having a good record for LGBT rights, Switzerland still prevents same-sex couples from adopting children and donor sperm can only be used by married couples. The Swiss federal authorities have not yet indicated if they will appeal the decision.

Elsewhere, a court in Rome has granted permission for the female partner of a biological mother to become a co-parent by adopting the child born via fertility treatment received abroad. It said it was acting in the best interests of the child and granted the woman the right to appeal a decision against her adoption application.

Italy does not legally recognise same-sex relationships and gay couples were until now were also prevented from adopting children. It also bans access to IVF for same-sex couples and single people. However, restrictions on IVF using donor sperm or eggs were declared 'unconstitutional' by the constitutional court last April (reported in BioNews 750). Since then, a court in Bologna has granted a couple the right to use donors in IVF treatment.

Commenting on the Rome decision, the Mario Mieli Society for Gay Culture welcomed the ruling, saying: 'We applaud the court which, with this ruling, has anticipated the law and recognised that this child, born to a gay couple, has the same rights as any other child'. Some campaigners are, however, arguing that a ban on IVF should remain for same-sex couples.

First gay couple in Italy allowed to adopt child
The Local (Italy) |  29 August 2014
Italian court allows a child to be legally adopted by gay couple
Gay Star News |  30 August 2014
Same-sex couple given parental rights to surrogate child
Swiss Info |  26 August 2014
Swiss gays recognized as parents of child
The Local (Switzerland) |  25 August 2014
Switzerland recognises two gay men as legal fathers to a child
Gat Star News |  28 August 2014
15 May 2017 - by Dr Mary Yarwood 
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Switzerland upholds stricter legislation on assisted reproduction and prenatal genetic testing than most European countries. However, recent regulatory changes demonstrate a possible shift towards a more liberal approach....
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14 April 2014 - by Siobhan Chan 
Italy's constitutional court has lifted a ban on the use of donor sperm and eggs for assisted conception, saying it was 'unconstitutional'...
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