ROME - The head of Italy's opposition Democratic Party blasted a bureaucratic crackdown on LGBTQ families as ideological, cruel and discriminatory and vowed Saturday to push through legislation to better recognize and protect their rights.
Elly Schlein, who in 2020 revealed she was in a relationship with another woman, joined thousands of people at a demonstration in Milan to protest a move by the far-right-led Italian government to restrict the rights of parents in same-sex relationships.
The Interior Ministry this week forced Milan to limit parental rights to the biological parent when same-sex couples register their children with the city.
Such registrations are required for parents to get their relationship to a child recognized for purposes such as authorizing medical treatment or participation in school outings. The national government's prefecture for Milan cited a loophole in limiting that authority to a biological parent.
LGBTQ rights activists blasted the move as evidence of the government's discrimination toward families headed by same-sex couples.
Party leader Schlein has never made her sexual orientation a prominent part of her politics, and she didn't address Saturday's protest from the main stage.
Speaking to reporters as the protest wrapped up, she accused Premier Giorgia Meroni's government of "cruelly lashing out" at the children of gay parents and denying them rights.
"We are talking about rights being trampled upon when they are already recognized by our constitution. We are talking about girls and boys already growing up in our communities, going to our schools,' Schlein said in comments streamed by Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. 'This is no longer tolerable. These families are tired of being discriminated against."
The prefecture decree also says parental rights must be limited to the biological parent even for children of same-sex couples who first were registered in other European Union member countries.
LGBTQ rights groups say the underlying decision by an Italian Senate commission to block the recognition of EU documents puts Italy in line with countries such as Poland and Hungary, strong allies of the Meloni government.
"This retrograde majority has inexplicably lashed out at children ideologically,' Schlein said. 'This goes against a European regulation that establishes a trivial thing and that is that if you are recognized as a daughter or son in another European country, you must also be recognized in Italy."
The government hasn't commented on the Milan directive. Meloni, who has a daughter with her partner, has frequently touted her Christian faith and pro-family values.
Schlein said she would press to open debate on legislation to close the legal loophole that resulted in the crackdown.
Also attending Saturday's protest was Francesca Pascale, the former longtime companion of ex-Premier Silvio Berlusconi. Pascale, who now is in a same-sex union with another woman, blasted Berlusconi's governing allies as "homophobic."
"The sovereigntists of this country treat us worse than criminals," she said. "Civil rights are rights for everyone."