What’s in a name?
What’s in two names? Or a hyphenated surname?
For Italy’s Constitutional Court, quite a lot. Members of that court believe the way most of Western society has been choosing the name a child bears for most of his or her life reflects an unfair patriarchal practice.
The Court on Wednesday ruled that Italian children should be given the surname of both parents. Current practice – handing down only the father’s name – is “discriminatory and harmful to the identity” of the child, the court said in a statement. Rather, both parents’ surnames should be used.
“Children should be given both parents’ surnames in the order they decide, unless they agree their children should take just one of them, the court added in a statement,” Reuters reported. “New legislation, to be approved by parliament, is now required to implement the decision.”
Italian Family Minister Elena Bonetti wrote on Facebook that the government will fully support parliament in this process of changing the naming tradition.
“We need to give substance” to the decision, she wrote, “and it is a high priority and urgent task of politics to do so.”
Double names are common in some cultures, such as Spanish, where a child, on official documents, usually uses the family name of the father, followed by that of the mother. In common usage, however, the mother’s name is normally omitted. Thus, Carlos, the son of Jose Gomez and Maria Perez, would be listed on documents as Carlos Gomez Perez, but called simply Carlos Gomez in everyday life.
Perhaps Italians now – if the new law translates well into practice – will follow a similar practice. Otherwise, in the next generation, they might be confronted with combining a double surname with another double surname.