Italy's constitutional court has refused to hear a same-sex adoption case involving two American mothers, amid intense debate in Italy over legal recognition of civil unions.

The court decided Wednesday that the case presented by the tribunal for minors in Bologna was inadmissible.

Nora Beck, an Italian-American musicologist at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, her wife and their two children moved to Italy in 2013 for a sabbatical year.

Beck had tried to pass her Italian citizenship on to the rest of her family, but only could do it for her 11-year-old biological son. Beck's wife, Liz Joffe, gave birth to their 12-year-old daughter.

The mothers went to court in Bologna after realizing they had no legal rights over their non-biological children.