What’s In a Name?

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Italy’s Constitutional Court ruled this week that children should inherit both of their parents’ last names, a verdict that would end a longstanding tradition for a child to automatically receive their father’s surname, NPR reported.

The top court said parents should each have a say in their child’s surname as it constitutes a “fundamental element of personal identity.” It added that the practice of automatically assigning children the father’s last name was not only unconstitutional but “discriminatory and harmful” to a child’s identity.

The new ruling will permit both parents to assign their child’s surname in an order they agree upon. It also allows them to choose a single last name for the child.

The case began after a family of five in the Basilicata Region wanted to give their newborn child the mother’s surname. The older two children, meanwhile, carried only the mother’s last name as they were only legally acknowledged by their father later, according to the Washington Post.

But regional officials denied the request because the law only permitted for the father’s surname or both surnames to be bestowed.

Lawmakers and government ministers praised the change as “another fundamental step in achieving equal rights between the women and men of our country.”

The court’s decision would bring Italian naming conventions in line with those of nations like Mexico, where children’s surnames are frequently made up of the father’s followed by the mother’s.

Even so, the decision will need to receive parliamentary approval before it officially becomes law.

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