As Italy's Parliament prepares to debate a civil unions bill, some lawmakers have proposed an amendment punishing couples who use overseas surrogates to become parents.
The amendment would require same-sex couples entering into a civil union to prove they had not used the services of a surrogate from another country, Agence France-Presse reports.
"If they cannot, the partner who is not the biological father would not be allowed to adopt the child and a judge would be entitled to have the child placed in care and put up for adoption," the news service notes. The punishment for using an overseas surrogate would be a prison term of up to two years and a fine of up to 1 million euros, whether or not the practice is legal in the surrogate's home country. There are already penalties like this for the use of a surrogate within Italy.
Gay rights activists denounced the proposal. "This is indecent," said Gabriele Piazzoni, the national secretary of Arcigay, according to AFP. "A law intended to recognize rights cannot be transformed into a criminalizing one that talks about prison."
The amendment was introduced by senators from Prime Minister Matteo Renzi's Democratic Party. The nation's interior minister, Angelino Alfano, recently called for even harsher penalties, saying the use of surrogate mothers should be treated like a sex crime.
The Senate is to begin debate on the civil unions bill Thursday. If it passes the bill, it will go to the other house of Parliament, the Chamber of Deputies. It is expected to pass both houses, but supporters fear it will be weakened in the process, AFP reports.
"Opponents meanwhile have threatened a constitutional challenge and a campaign for a ratifying referendum if parliament approves gay unions that they think resemble marriage too closely," the news service notes.
Italy is the last Western European country without some form of relationship recognition for same-sex couples.