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Same-sex parenting:

Gay-lesbian adoption outside the U.S.

Sponsored link.

Information about adoption in the U.S. is located elsewhere


This essay provides general information only. Do not rely on it to determine your legal rights or status. The legal situation in many political jurisdictions is in a state of rapid change. We recommend that you seek legal advice from a qualified attorney.

Legal status of adoption in countries outside the U.S.:

Past status: According to an Associated Press article, as of 2002-NOV-1, four European countries allowed gay and lesbian couples to adopt children:

  • Denmark
  • Iceland
  • The Netherlands: Co-parent adoptions are not permitted to les/gay couples. 1
  • Sweden: An enabling bill was passed in 2002-JUN and came into effect on 2003-FEB-1.

Recent developments:

  • 2001-FEB-13: In Norway, The secretariat of the National Council of the Church of Norway (the Kirker©det) decided to support the Labor government's aim of changing adoption laws so that registered homosexual partners could adopt children. The Council felt that adoption by same-sex partners was a valid but not optimal arrangement. They decided that love, security and stability outweighed what they consider to be a sub-optimal situation that parents of the same sex represent. 2
  • 2002-SEP-10: In South Africa, the Constitutional Court ruled that laws which allow joint adoptions only by married couples violate constitutional guarantees of equality, dignity, and the best interests of children. A case was brought by a lesbian who petitioned to adopt the child of her unmarried partner. The court ruling has legalized adoption by same-sex couples. This is the first African country to take this step. The court ruled that the "failure by the law to recognize the value and worth of the first applicant as a parent to the siblings is demeaning." The court modified the law to allow "two members of a permanent same-sex life partnership" to adopt. 3
  • 2002-NOV-5: Britain became the fifth European country to permit these adoptions. Their House of Commons had passed a bill authorizing adoptions, but the House of Lords had voted it down. On its second try, the House of Lords passed the bill. It was later signed into law. It allows single individuals, both heterosexuals and homosexuals, to adopt children. However, heterosexual couples living common-law and same-sex couples will not be permitted to adopt.

    As expected, opinions on the passage of the bill were mixed:
    • Lord Strathclyde, the leader of the Conservative leader in the Lords, was disappointed. He said: "I hope that in the fervor to promote more adoption outside marriage the needs of vulnerable children for a stable, lifelong background will still be remembered."
    • Health Secretary, Alan Milburn, said "as a result of tonight's vote, many children in care institutions will be able to hope for a life out of care and in a stable and loving family." 4
  • 2003-NOV-27: Australia: A bill has been introduced in the Australian Capital Territory that would recognize partners of lesbian parents who conceive children through IVF to be recognized as parents.
  • 2005-NOV-16: Israel: In a major development, the Be'er Sheva Family Court recognized that a lesbian couple are parents "in every regard with equal responsibilities for the child's economic, familial and physical concern" according to the plaintiffs' lawyer. One of the women gave birth to the child with the help of a sperm donor. 5
  • 2005-DEC-05: Belgium: A bill to allow adoptions by same-sex couples has passed the country's Lower House and is being debated by the Upper House. If the bill passes into law, parents would be able to adopt children from elsewhere in the world, as long as the child's country of origin does not restrict same-sex adoptions. 6
  • 2006-FEB-27: Scotland: Rev Joseph Devine, Bishop of Motherwell, sent a letter to Jack McConnell, the First Minister of Scotland, condemning the proposal that all couples be allowed to apply to adopt children -- both same-sex and opposite-sex. A similar law was passed in the rest of the UK in 2005-DEC. He described the measure as "...yet another violation of family life." The Herald newspaper reported that Bishop Devine wrote:
    "No doubt for refusing to pander to the idea that homosexual and lesbian relationships are equal to heterosexual partnerships, particularly those blessed in the sight of God, I shall be termed a bigot by the politically correct hardcore in the Scottish Parliament,"

    He added that he is

    "...not prepared to stand by and watch the destruction of Christian values and truth....What started as a tolerance and compassion for gays had developed into the suppression of the majority heterosexual lifestyle. Traditional family values are in the dock and the judge and jury are composed of politically correct extremists."

    Bishop Devine continue that he has watched:

    "with mounting disquiet the forces of political correctness corrupt our moral, political and social order...Now their insidious influence threatens our innocent and vulnerable children."

    In 2006-JAN, Cardinal Keith O'Brien asked that the government introduce a "conscience clause" so that Catholic adoption agencies would be allowed to deny same-sex couples consideration as potential adoptive parents. The government refused the request. 7

  • 2008-DEC-22: UK: Catholic adoption agency defunded: In 2007, the government of the UK passed a set of  Sexual Orientation Regulations (SOR).  It prohibits most groups or individuals who provide goods and services to the public from discriminating against persons on the basis of their sexual orientation. The law has been widely misrepresented by religious conservatives. It does not apply to religious rituals and services. It does not create special rights for homosexuals; it applies to persons of all sexual orientations.

    Catholic Caring Services (CCS) of Lancaster UK was caught between a rock and a hard place. One of their sponsors, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lancaster requires the CCS to discriminate against homosexuals when selecting adopting parents. They also require the agency to follow Catholic teaching on marriage, abortion, human sexuality, the morning after pill, etc. The SOR requires agencies to be free of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. However, the regulations do contain an exemption to cover agencies that are committed to operate according to the beliefs of their religious sponsor; they can continue to discriminate. The CCS elected to follow the spirit of the law. As a result, the Diocese eliminated the CCS funding and now regards them as a non-Catholic agency. The CCS' trustees voted 9 to 1 to remove the word "Catholic" from their agency name. 8

See also our essay on foster parenting by same-sex couples.


The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Nancy G. Maxwell, et al., "Legal protection for all the children: Dutch-American comparison of lesbian and gay parent adoptions," at: http://www.ejcl.org/31/
  2. "Church of Norway approves homosexual adoption,"  AftenPosten, at: http://www.aftenposten.no/english/
  3. "South African Court Finds Right to Joint Homosexual Adoptions," Marriage Watch, at: http://www.marriagewatch.org/news/
  4. "Britain Parliament OKs Gay Adoptions," Associated Press, 2002-NOV-5, at:
  5. "Court OKs Lesbian adoption," GayLawNet, 2005-NOV-16 at: http://www.gaylawnet.com/
  6. See link at GayLawNet, at: http://www.gaylawnet.com/
  7. Terry Vanderheyden, "Scotland Bishop Blasts Parliament Decision to Allow Gay Adoption. Says tolerance for gays has 'developed into suppression of majority heterosexual lifestyle'," LifeSiteNews.com, 2006-FEB-27.
  8. Hilary White, "Lancaster Bishop Pulls Funding from Ex-Catholic Adoption Agency," LifeSiteNews.com, 2008-DEC-22, at: http://www.lifesitenews.com/

Site navigation: Home page > "Hot" religious topics > Homosexuality > Parenting > here

Copyright © 2002 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2002-NOV-6
Date of last update: 2008-DEC-24

Author: B.A. Robinson

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