Italy legalised same-sex civil unions in 2016 but stopped short of granting gay couples the right to adopt / © AFP
Hundreds of people took to the streets in Milan on Saturday in protest against moves by Italy's new right-wing government to restrict the rights of same-sex parents.
"You explain to my son that I'm not his mother," read one sign held up amid a sea of rainbow flags that filled one of the northern city's central squares.
Italy legalised same-sex civil unions in 2016, but opposition from the Catholic Church meant it stopped short of granting gay couples the right to adopt.
Decisions have instead been made on a case-by-case basis by the courts, as parents take legal action, although some local authorities decided to act unilaterally.
Milan had been registering children of same-sex couples conceived overseas through surrogacy -- which is illegal in Italy -- or medically assisted reproduction, which is only available for heterosexual couples.
But its centre-left mayor Beppe Sala revealed this week that this had stopped after the interior ministry sent a letter insisting that the courts must decide.
"It is an obvious step backwards from a political and social point of view, and I put myself in the shoes of those parents who thought they could count on this possibility in Milan," he said in a podcast, vowing to fight the change.
Fabrizio Marrazzo of the Gay Party said about 20 children are waiting to be registered in Milan, condemning the change as "unjust and discriminatory".
A mother or father who is not legally recognised as their child's parent can face huge bureaucratic problems, with the risk of losing the child if the registered parent dies or the couple's relationship breaks down.
Elly Schlein, newly elected leader of the centre-left Democratic Party, was among opposition politicians who attended the protest Saturday, where many campaigners railed against the new government.
Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, whose far-right Brothers of Italy party came top in September elections, puts a strong emphasis on traditional family values.
"Yes to natural families, no to the LGBT lobby!" she said in a speech last year before her election at the head of a right-wing coalition that includes Matteo Salvini's anti-immigration League.
Earlier this week, a Senate committee voted against an EU plan to oblige member states to recognise the rights of same-sex parents granted elsewhere in the bloc.