Music Professor Eleonora Beck confronts Italian Supreme Court over adoption rights among gay couples

Professor Eleonora Beck

By Noah Foster-Koth///Senior Staff Writer

A professor at Lewis & Clark College is at the center of an international conflict that could change the legal standing of gay rights in Italy.

Eleonora Beck, the Director of Musicology at LC, moved to Italy for sabbatical in 2013. Beck spent much of her childhood in Italy and identifies Italian as her first language. During her sabbatical, Beck intended to bring her family to Bologna while she wrote a book about Italian Renaissance Music.

Beck has Italian citizenship, but she learned that her family would not have the same legal recognition in Italy that they did in Portland.

“I sent all the materials to the Italian Consulate in San Francisco of my two children, so that they could be Italian citizens, and they were denied on the basis of having two mothers on the birth certificate,” Beck said. “I went to Italy…without visas for my children, because they refused to give the Visas. And I hired an attorney there.”

Beck brought her family to Italy after her lawyer obtained a special permit allowing Beck’s wife and children to live in the country for the duration of her sabbatical. Beck was also able to get Italian citizenship for her son, whom she gave birth to. However, she was not able to get custody of her daughter, who was born to her wife.

“I put my kids in school, but a lot of time was spent trying to get our Visas and our residencies,” Beck said. Beck and her lawyer went to the Italian Court of Minors and requested that Italy recognize Beck and her wife’s adoption of their children. In October 2014, Beck learned that the lower Bologna court had chosen not to rule on her case and had passed it on to the Italian Supreme Court instead.

“At that point everything was completely out of my hands,” Beck said, “It was just a matter of waiting.” Beck and her family returned to the United States, at which point Beck resumed her post as the Director of Musicology at LC.

The Italian Supreme Court didn’t deliver their judgement on Beck’s case until February 24th, 2016. Beck and her family flew back to Italy in order to be present for the Supreme Court’s ruling. “I really wanted my daughter to be there when the Court made its decision. We didn’t know if it was going to be positive or negative, we didn’t know what was going to be said that day.”  

The Italian Supreme Court declined to rule on Beck’s case, saying that the Bologna court had made a mistake by passing it to the Supreme Court in the first place, because gay adoption rights were not a constitutional case. The Supreme Court sent the case back to the lower court to be re-examined. According to Beck, the Supreme Court “wants Bologna to continue with this process of allowing this adoption,” said Beck. “I would say the court did rule in my favor, in a sense.”

The day after the Italian Supreme Court sent Beck’s case back to the Bologna Court, the Italian Parliament voted in favor of legalizing civil unions in the country. “My case got caught up in this fervor of gay rights,” said Beck. However, the bill passed in Parliament only legalized civil unions; it did not include provisions relating to gay couples’ adoption rights.

However, Beck still hopes that the Italian legal system will issue more support for gay rights. “We heard from our lawyer last week that the Supreme Court’s written opinion will be made public in several weeks. Our hope is that it will have some language supporting adoption and families.”

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