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Professor Beck Shares Story of Italian Adoption Case

  • Professor of Music and Director of Musicology Eleonora Beck has
    Steve Hambuchen

Identity and Engagement

As a member of the LBGTQ community and an Italian citizen, James W. Rogers Professor of Music and Director of Musicology Eleonora Beck has defined, and defended, her identity throughout her lifetime.

As the director of Exploration and Discovery (E&D), the first-year course, Beck shared her struggle with Italian adoption law for same-sex couples in the fifth and final E&D colloquium of the academic year. With speakers including an Italian lawyer and a Multnomah County Circuit Court judge, the event embodied the colloquium series’ theme: Civic Engagement and the Common Good.

Beck has two children: a son who is her biological child and a daughter to whom her wife gave birth. Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Nan Waller, who also spoke at the colloquium, presided over the adoption in 2003. While the adoption process in the U.S. was relatively seamless, Beck encountered numerous obstacles when trying to take her family to Bologna, Italy, in 2013.

“Like every professor, I need to go on sabbatical to do my research,” Beck said. “I needed to do my research in Italy and take my family there. I am an Italian citizen, but when I tried to get my children their visas, they told me that I couldn’t get their visas or their citizenship because they have two moms on their birth certificates.”

Although Beck was soon able to get citizenship for her biological son, it took five years for her daughter to receive hers. With the help of Italian attorney Claudio Pezzi, also a colloquium speaker, Beck brought her case to several Italian courts: the Italian Court of Minors, an appellate court and, finally, the Italian Supreme Court. Since Italy, by law, has to accept U.S. foreign judgments, the courts finally recognized the adoption and awarded Beck’s daughter citizenship in September 2018.

Beck was motivated to pursue the case, not just to gain citizenship for her daughter, but to set a precedent in Italian adoption law. “We wanted to do this because every case that goes through the Italian courts helps other Italian families,” Beck said. “Italy only has civil unions [for LGBTQ people], not marriages.”

To highlight the student experience—and to expand the identity discussion—Elias Williamson BA ’20 presented an original music video and spoke about their LGBTQ identity. Janet Steverson, dean of diversity and inclusion, spoke on adoption and family law, which she teaches at Lewis & Clark Law School.

“The E&D series is teaching our students to think about and analyze particular problems through a number of different lenses and, sometimes, conflicting ones,” said Steverson. “Students are learning to think for themselves … and broaden their worldview.”

—by Hanna Merzbach BA ’20

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