ROME – A small cluster of LGBTQ+ rights activists protested near St. Peter’s Square Thursday to object to a new measure from Italy’s right-wing government to remove the names of non-biological gay parents from the birth certificates of their children.

Most of the certificates in question belong to children of Italian women who went abroad to undergo artificial insemination and then returned to register their children. Surrogacy is illegal in Italy, but many LGBTQ+ couples circumvent the ban by having the procedure abroad.

Gay marriage is not recognized in Italy, but in recent years, several Italian cities, usually led by center-left mayors, have allowed the names of both parents in a LGBTQ+ relationship to be included on birth certificates. In April, however, the national government of conservative Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni ordered local authorities to stop doing so, and to amend certificates that had already been issued.

In the city of Padua, 33 such certificates have already been revised to remove the names of non-biolgical parents, according to the local prosecutor’s office.

In effect, the measure means that the non-biological partner is not legally recognized as the child’s parent unless he or she goes through the legal process of adoption, which can affect their ability to perform routine tasks such as a picking up the child from school or accessing public services on their behalf.

The small August 3 protest, which was organized by a group called the EuroCentralAsian Lesbian* Community, was staged in Rome’s John XXIII Square, located between St. Peter’s Square and Castel Sant’Angelo.

The dozen or so activists on hand held signs reading, “Lesbian mothers deserve parental rights,” “Long live lesbian mothers!” and “Two mothers are better than one.”

Pope Francis was not in the Vatican at the time, as he’s currently in Lisbon presiding over the Catholic Church’s World Youth Day. Ironically, the protest came just four days after the tenth anniversary of his famous remark in 2013 in response to a reporter’s question about homosexuals in the clergy, “Who am I to judge?”

Francis made the comment on July 29, 2013, while on a flight returning from a World Youth Day celebration in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The Meloni government’s decision on birth certificates had already generated protests outside Italian embassies in various European cities, and organizers said they had originally hoped to assemble outside the Italian embassy to the Vatican in Rome’s Prati neighborhood. For security reasons, however, authorities denied permission for that location, so the rally was held near the Vatican instead.

Although the object of the protest was a decision by the Italian government, organizers, calling themselves #lesbiansaremotherstoo, said the location at the Vatican was nevertheless appropriate because it’s a foreign state where “sexual minorities have never been treated with respect.”

Organizers vowed similar protests will continue.

“It’s never been as important as it is today to resist,” they said. “Our families exist, lesbian mothers exist and therefore no law that violates this already existing relationship can condition choices that pass through everyday life… it’s a matter of dignity.”

“We won’t stop, because we can’t accept that there are ‘first class mothers’ who give birth and ‘second class mothers’ who take care of their sons and daughters every day,” a spokesperson said. “It’s a discriminatory principle that can’t stand.”

The Vatican did not any issue any reaction to the protest, and in general hasn’t taken any public position on the Italian debate over birth certificates.