A court in Italy has become the first in the country to allow a lesbian couple’s right to adopt each other’s biological daughters.

The tribunal in Rome upheld two appeals from gay rights groups on behalf of the women that means they will both be regarded as parents of the children.

The court said it had based its decision on “adoptions in special cases” and will allow the two girls to have the same double barrelled surname, but not regard them as sisters.

The cases is the first of this nature to be heard since the Italian parliament passed a civil unions bill last week.

Francesca Quarato of Rete Lenford, one of the gay rights groups that represented the couple, said that the law “confers lesser guarantees to the minor when compared to the recognition of full, legitimate parenthood”.

Although the ruling means that the children will not have the same protections as a heterosexual married couple would have been given, it does provide them with more than they had.

“In this way, each of the minors has a biological parent and a social parent, both of them with full and equal parenting capacities and responsibilities,” Ms Quarato explained.

“The court considered the minors’ interest in having their relationship with their social mother recognised and protected.”

Last week, Italy’s Supreme Court had refused to hear an adoption case involving two American mothers because it said the lower court had misinterpreted the law.