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Gay Adoption

Very few countries ban adoption by lesbian, gay, or bisexual people. Russia's recent legal change was a ban on adoption by same-sex couples.

In the UK, it has never been unlawful for a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender adult to adopt a child. What was not provided for in law before 2002, was the right of an adopted child to have two legal parents of the same gender. (The law on adoption was changed in Scotland in 2008.)

Prior to 2002, a child adopted by a same-sex couple might think of both adults as their own parents, but the law gave the child only the right to one parent in a same-sex couple: a child adopted by a mixed-sex couple would of right have two parents.

Northern Ireland is still the only part of the UK where the law does not permit a child adopted by a same-sex couple to have both as the child's parents.

Edwin PootsEdwin Poots, the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in the Northern Ireland Executive, declared that Stormont would appeal the court decision that makes this ban unlawful. He claimed that:

"Unlike other parts of the UK... we have a strong list of adoptive parents who want to take on adopted children.

"I think we should be cautious about changing the system which actually provides the stability those children need.

"It is not a human right to adopt a child for either a mixed-sex couple or a same-sex couple."

Edwin Poots has used £40,000 of public funds to oppose changing the law to allow children adopted by same-sex couples to have two legal parents.

Cara McCann of HERE NI, a community organisation based in Belfast that supports lesbian and bisexual women and their families across Northern Ireland, told PinkNews.co.uk:

“Here NI are extremely disappointed at the decision to grant leave to the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety to enable them to appeal to the Supreme Court. Once again same-sex couples are being treated as second class citizens. The women who engage with Here NI are forming their own families but unfortunately there is no legal framework to support many of these families.”

While many gay adoption stories in the media focus on two fathers adopting a child in need of a home, many lesbian adoption cases are of two women, in a relationship, where one is the birth mother but the other mother, though involved with the child's life from the very beginning, can have no legal relationship unless she is allowed to co-adopt the child. Denying same-sex couples the right to legal adoption means these families have no legal recognition. It's hard to see how this could be argued to be in the best interests of the children.

But the Supreme Court refused Edwin Poots's attempt to appeal. The Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Equality Commission, Professor Michael O'Flaherty, said:

"The commission brought this case to ensure that the best interests of children in Northern Ireland would be protected.

"Unmarried couples, those in same sex relationships and civil partnerships are eligible to be considered to be adoptive parents

"All of the judgements and today's rejection by the Supreme Court to hear a further appeal confirmed that the law in Northern Ireland was out of step with the United Kingdom's human rights obligations."

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