ROME (Reuters) - A court in Rome has allowed a lesbian couple to adopt each other's children, their lawyer said on Tuesday, less than a week after the Italian parliament threw out a bid to give gays limited adoption rights.
Prime Minister Matteo Renzi had promised to open the way for stepchild adoption as part of a larger reform aimed at giving legal rights and protection to same-sex couples.
Much to the anger of gay rights groups, he dropped the adoption clause following fierce opposition from within his center-left coalition. However, Tuesday's ruling highlights the fact that Italy's courts are prepared to step into the breach in the absence of clear cut legislation.
Each of the partners in the case had given birth to a daughter, and the court gave them parental status regarding both children, their lawyer Francesca Quarato said in a statement.
"Now each child has a biological parent and a social parent, both with full and equal parental capacity and responsibility," she said. The names of the couple were not given.
The statement did not say how the children were conceived and Reuters could not reach Quarato for details. Italian media reported the couple went to Denmark for artificial insemination -- a process reserved in Italy only for married couples.
The ruling gives more limited rights than could have been given to a married couple and the girls will not legally be sisters, the president of the Rete Lenford association of gay rights lawyers said. However, they will share the same surname.
Sergio Lo Giudice, a gay senator in Renzi's ruling Democratic Party (PD) who has a son born to a surrogate mother, said in a statement the ruling showed up parliament's failure.
"The courts will continue to intervene to look after the all-important interest of the child to have the emotional link to their same-sex parents recognized," Lo Giudice said.
Lo Giudice went to the United States to have his child, as surrogate parenting is illegal in Italy.
Italy is the last major Western country not to give any legal recognition to gay couples and the debate over civil unions has split parliament along religious lines.
A prominent minister said at the weekend that the government was now working on a new law to extend adoption rights to gay and single people, prompting immediate objections from politicians close to the Roman Catholic Church.
Reporting by Isla Binnie; Editing by Gareth Jones