uskiva ten years ago History of the new surname and the author, Elena Ferranteat the time she was all focused on completing the series of novels The brilliant friend. If we are here today, it is because we would like another series to be completed instead. A saga, perhaps. “The history of the double surname” (maternal and paternal) to be assigned when born in Italy. Today it can be done. Following the sentence of the Constitutional Court of April 27, 2022, after seven months of the 3,900 children born in Milan, 680 received their father’s surname first and then their mother’s, the reverse in 25 cases. And 20 have only the maternal name.

    Double surname: the road is long

    In the meantime, the Corriere del Mezzogiorno headlined: “Bari likes a double surname: in almost three months 6 percent of newborns have had it”. The parents of 27 Bari children took advantage of the sentence and only in two cases is the maternal surname the first. But what do you expect to make a law? Because if this last sentence on the subject reaffirms (once again) the constitutional illegitimacy of the attribution of the patronymic alone, and affirms (finally) that the disagreement between two parents is no longer an obstacle to proceeding to identify children with the double surname, the message has passed that everything is now resolved. Hurray.

    But no. Everything is at a standstill, if anything. A regulatory reform is missing, the only one that will be able to clarify the many doubts related to the sentences. The Ministry of the Interior (to which the National Registry belongs) has no data or any control over the current situation. Requests to add the surname are collected by the prefectures, and the municipal registry offices are the first to acquire the birth declarations of the parents of the new born, but at the moment this is not a phenomenon observed by Istat. For years, however, it has been the subject of many women’s human and professional battles.

    Today it can be done but thanks to a ruling by the Cassation. But what do you expect to make a law? (Photo Getty Images)

    With the surname of the mother

    Iole Natoli, director, was for example one of the first to have her children put the double surname after suing the Ministry of the Interior and she also started a blog (The maternal surname in Italy in marriages and cohabitations), convinced that the patrilineal surname is the cultural burqa of women.

    “I did it fifteen years ago. I never got married and I wanted my daughter to have my surname too» she says Laura Cossar, lawyer expert in family law, of persons and minors, based in Milan. «Since then, thanks to word of mouth, many couples have sought me out dealing with these bureaucracies. We have eleven bills and no less than eight judgments – from Cassation and European – published. It means we get one step away from the norm and then something happens. There are so many limitations to solve. I have a couple who would like to give a double surname but the father already has two, in which case the son would have three because the paternal one is considered unique. I advised giving three and then contesting the birth certificate to remove the third».

    A mother, a daughter: the clip

    The only ones in Europe not to have a double surname law

    To manage situations like these today there is actually also the possibility of resorting to international legislation. In Europe, after all, we are the only ones who do not have a law on the subject. «I followed a couple with a Spanish wife and for their son I appealed to the law of his country which provides for the loss of one of the two surnames of the parent, in order to avoid the multiplication of surnames, in the event of the birth of one or more children. In any case, it appears to me that today no more than 10 percent of couples choose the double surname» adds Laura Cossar.

    And the reasons are many. In addition to those of a cultural nature (giving the paternal one is a hard habit to die), there is a set of uncertainties for which, given the confusion, you would not want to complicate your child’s life in the future.

    Unanswered questions

    It remains to decide the order of surnames (alphabetical?). Their destiny over time (which is lost when the children’s children are born?) and that of the uniformity of surnames between brothers (in France the civil code establishes that the choice of family name can be exercised only once, for example, with the birth of the firstborn).

    So that of the age in which it is possible to add the second surname to the child’s name and that of the ambit within which this faculty can be exercised (only marriage or also cohabitation?). In the end, that of the formation of the tax code (how to redistribute the letters between three words?), etc.

    «That of the patrilineal surname in Italy is in any case the result of a custom based on Roman law and not of a norm. I followed parents who appealed to the Court of Strasbourg which, when it proved them right, then condemned Italy to compensate them. It is a question of establishing a principle of equality between parents already present in the Constitution, bearing in mind that the European Charter of Human Rights also tells us so» concludes Cossar.

    New parents in a sea of ​​doubts

    But it doesn’t end there. “The doubts to be clarified are equal to the cases” specifies Valeria Cianciolo, lawyer and manager of the site of the National Observatory on Family Law. «It is an issue that I have known since the time of the Cusan Fazzo sentence, a case of 2014 known because it had a certain media hype: Strasbourg condemned Italy to reinterpret the civil code in the light of new social needs and community standards. The 2022 ruling doesn’t actually say anything new. That is, it specifies that only if the parents disagree, the decision is up to the judge.

    Can this decision be changed by the child who has come of age? Some seem to be oriented towards unchangeability. On the other hand, the surname is an identity sign. And again: if I wanted to recover a prestigious surname because, for example, my parents have decided to adopt only one surname, the lesser known of the two, how should I do? Shall I summon all my relatives?” concludes Cianciolo.

    90% want to give the surname of both

    The multiplier effect of surnames – which is the first thing that must be regulated – follows the multiplier effect of doubts awaiting clarity. “We receive many requests for clarification from young couples. In 90 percent of cases they want to give the surname of bothalthough they often agree to put the paternal one before the maternal one but only to preserve the family tradition» adds Marco Meliti, president of the Italian Association of Family Law and Psychology.

    «The cases in which the couple instead opts for keeping a single surname are linked, moreover, to the blatant cacophony generated by the juxtaposition of the two surnames. And in these cases the choice seems to be shared as is the case with the name» concludes Meliti.

    In Genoa on 8 March 2021 a fundraiser was born which gave life to “The rain of surnames”, a book that wants to inform and raise awareness also in girls and boys schools, the parents of tomorrow, on this opportunity.

    The importance of identity

    Behind the initiative is the experience gained following the sentence of the Constitutional Court of 2016, i.e. the story of Manuela Magalhães, an Italian-Brazilian university professor who turned to Susanna Schivo, a civil lawyer, to obtain the double surname for her son. Even the lawyer at the birth of her son in agreement with her father, had asked that he be identified with both surnames.

    But then he hadn’t continued the judicial process to reach his goal: “So my son only has his father’s surname but since then I haven’t stopped following the issue, waiting for the opportunity to professionally investigate the legal aspects and obtain a change of discipline. The right opportunity came when I met Manuela Magalhães.

    His son, born in Italy and with dual citizenship, would have had two surnames in Brazil and only one in Italy. It was a suggestive case, in which the child’s identity was harmed intolerably. I contested the Municipality’s refusal to request a double surname, pleading the illegitimacy of the rule which provided for the attribution of only the patronymic at the time of birth and the Court of Appeal of Genoa has raised the related question of unconstitutionality: this is how the 2016 sentence arrived – which declared it illegitimate to refuse spouses who request a double surname for their child – the forerunner of the last one» explains Susanna Schivo.

    When the double surname multiplies

    It’s a good story of not only a female network, since the father also agreed. «I thought that whoever managed to have a double surname would be the bearer of a vision of family relationships freer from gender stereotypes and respectful of their origins. The problem is that this possibility is little known, it should be offered to all parents by birth centers and civil status offices. There are still many unresolved practical issues which effectively prevent people from exercising the right to use a double surname: sentences cannot replace Parliament» continues Schivo.

    Any examples? There are parents with double surnames who would not want their child to have four. «A little girl from Turin received five surnames, or one formed by five elements, three of the father, two of the mother. The parents, who wanted to identify their daughter with a surname of each, were forced to give all their surnames and are about to appeal to the Prefect for the relative modification, for which they will also be asked for the consent of their respective relatives. Parents should not be left alone, at the time of birth, to juggle confusing regulationsit is necessary for the institutions to spread a clear and just knowledge of rights» concludes Schivo.

    Listening to these women, one certainty catches the eye: the sentence this spring, whereby the child is given the surname according to the parents’ request, it is a great example of respect for the lawand not just gender equality. That said, change doesn’t have to be scary.