“It reflects all the prejudices that adoptive families face"

Predictably enough, the ruling caused an uproar. Some interpreted it as a statement that adopted children don’t count as “real” children — or, worse yet, that their lives aren’t worth as much. “I found this sentence appalling,” said Francesca Sforza, a writer for the liberal newspaper La Stampa who has three adopted children, said in a telephone interview. “It reflects all the prejudices that adoptive families face when we have to prove that we are real families, as if blood was the foundation of love.”

From a legal standpoint, however, the ruling is fully justified, said Andrea Del Corno, a lawyer in Milan who specializes in criminal justice. Like most European countries, Italy has a legal system in which judges must closely stick to written codes rather than relying on previous rulings and interpretations as they would in the United States. Italian judges, explained Del Corno, “aren’t allowed to rule according to common sense. Their job is to apply the written law.”