The Italian Constitutional Court has ruled that all babies should automatically get two surnames: one from each parent. The decision overturns a long-held tradition in which babies only received a surname from their father.
Moving forward, babies will receive both mom and dad’s last names — and parents can decide which order they go in. Parents can also decide together if the baby will only take one surname (and which one it will be).
In the past, it was difficult to give a child a mother’s surname unless the father was unwilling to give their name to the baby or unless the father was unknown. A mother could not independently choose to give her last name to her baby.
The court — which is like the United State’s Supreme Court — said that the practice of only taking the father’s name was “discriminatory and harmful to the identity" of the child.
“Both parents should be able to share the choice of a surname, which is a fundamental element for one’s personal identity,” the court wrote.
The Italian parliament will now need to pass legislation regarding the court decision for it to go officially into effect.
Family Minister Elena Bonetti posted on Facebook that she was in full support of the decision.
“Let's move forward quickly and together on this road, which I have urged us to go down several times,” she writes. “I guarantee all support of the Government to the parliamentary process to take another fundamental step in achieving equal rights between the women and men of our country.”
"Parents have equal responsibility and equal rights, no more discrimination that penalizes mothers and children,” added Laura Boldrini, an MP for the Democratic Party.
Italy now joins countries like France, Germany, and Spain, where parents can choose to use one or both parental surnames.
In the United States, baby naming laws vary by state, but in most states, parents are allowed to choose their child’s last name without restriction.