The European Parliament voted last week in support of legislation that would require all EU states to recognize parentage granted in another EU state. That’s good news, particularly for children of LGBTQ parents—but the legislation is not yet guaranteed to become law.
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voted 366 to 145, with 23 abstentions, in favor of the draft legislation, whose aim is “to make sure that children enjoy the same rights under national law regarding education, healthcare, custody or succession,” according to a press release. States would be required to recognize parentage established by another EU country “irrespective of how the child was conceived, born or the type of family it has.”
“No child should be discriminated against because of the family they belong to or the way they were born,” said lead MEP Maria-Manuel Leitão-Marques (S&D, Portugal) following the plenary vote. “Currently, children may lose their parents, legally speaking, when they enter another member state. This is unacceptable. With this vote, we come closer to the goal of ensuring that if you are a parent in one member state, you are a parent in all member states.”
The legislation, which has “the best interests of the child as a primary consideration,” also introduced a European Certificate of Parenthood—a document to facilitate recognition of parenthood across the EU. It would not replace national documents but could be used in their stead.
The new legislation would, however, only apply to parentage established by an EU country; parentage established outside the EU would remain governed by the national law of each EU state.
EU countries could still choose not to recognize parentage established in other EU states “if manifestly incompatible with their public policy,” but only in in “strictly defined cases,” which will be considered individually “to ensure there is no discrimination, e.g. against children of same sex parents,” per the EP. Countries would also still be able to establish their own parentage rules, so that, for example, a country could refuse to allow surrogacy (but would have to accept the parentage of a child born via surrogacy in an EU country that allows it).
Two million children may currently face a situation in which their parents are not recognized as such in another member state, according to the European Commission (EC). EU states must already recognize parentage established in another EU state for the purposes of rights derived from EU law, particularly that of free movement, such as the right of entry and residence in another state, the right to equal treatment, and to obtain travel documentation for a child. This right was affirmed in a 2021 case involving a two-mom family, in which a child born in Spain to a Bulgarian-born mother and a Gibraltar-born one was left without citizenship for several years until the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled in her favor.
EU law does not yet, however, require the recognition of parentage established in another state for the purposes of rights that the child derives from national law, such as succession and maintenance rights. This lack of recognition can have “significant adverse consequences for children,” says the EC:
the fundamental rights of children, such as their right to an identity, to non-discrimination and to a private and family life, may be hampered;
children can lose their rights to succession or maintenance in another Member State;
children can lose their right to have one of their parents act as their legal representative in another Member State on matters such as medical treatments or schooling.
Earlier this year, the Italian government of Giorgia Meloni’s far-right Brothers of Italy party began removing nongestational mothers’ names from their children’s birth certificates, depriving the children of the protections and benefits of two legal parents. The new EU legislation, if passed, would not change the Italian government’s ability to do that to children with Italian birth certificates, but would require Italy to recognize the parentage of children with LGBTQ parents if their parentage had been established in another EU country.
EU governments must now decide unanimously on the final version of the legislation. That might be difficult, however, with Hungary and Italy already opposing it, as Euractiv reported in November. Still, as a public expression of where the majority of the European Parliament stands, this feels like a significant step forward.