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A top Italian court ruled Wednesday that newborn children should by default carry both parents’ surnames — not just the father’s, as had been the status quo.

The Italian Constitutional Court in Rome said that automatically assigning a child just the surname of their father was constitutionally illegitimate.

The court said parents should each have a say in their child’s surname as it constitutes a “fundamental element of personal identity.” Going forward, a child will take both parents’ surnames, with mutual agreement on the order of the names, the court said.

But the child could take only one of the parents’ names, if that is what the parents chose, the court said — which would for the first time make it broadly possible for children to solely carry their mother’s last name.

The rule should apply to children born to married and unmarried parents, as well as adopted children, the court said.

It is standard for Italian women to keep their last names, and it is typical for mother and child in Italy to have different surnames — a situation that is similar in countries such as South Korea. The court’s ruling would align Italian naming practices with those of countries such as Mexico, where children’s surnames are often composed of the father’s followed by the mother’s.

Cecilia D’Elia, a center-left Italian lawmaker and a self-declared feminist, called the current naming procedure the “last patriarchal sign of family law.”

Giving the mother “the same dignity as that of the father,” she wrote on Twitter, was simply “a sign of civility.”

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The Italian legislature is now tasked with passing laws that specify how the court’s ruling will be implemented. The Italian minister of family and equal opportunities, Elena Bonetti, said in a statement that the government backed the ruling, which was “another fundamental step in achieving equal rights between the women and men of our country.”

The practice of automatically assigning the father’s surname to a child amounted to discrimination against women and children, she told the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera.

Italy is one of the lowest-ranked Western European countries on the European Institute for Gender Equality’s latest index, coming in below the European Union average.

Italy had until now carried “a story of male biographies,” Bonetti said. “The surname is part of one’s identity and personal history, a story that we can now pass on written in the feminine.”

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