Gay father's adoption appeal: MSF responds to concerns on whether case sets a precedent

Gay father's adoption appeal: MSF responds to concerns on whether case sets a precedent

hands of father and baby, black and white
(Photo: Unsplash/Liane Metzler)

SINGAPORE: Minister for Social & Family Development Desmond Lee on Wednesday (Dec 19) responded to concerns on whether the recent High Court ruling allowing a Singaporean gay father's appeal to adopt his surrogate son sets a precedent for the formation of same-sex families in Singapore.

Mr Lee noted that while the Court decided to grant the adoption in this instance, it also recognised that the adoption "violates the public policy against the formation of same-sex family units" and that gay parents seeking to adopt their surrogate children in future may have difficulty proving they did not "intentionally set out" to violate the policy.

Mr Lee said: "Since the ruling, concerns have been raised about the implications of this case and whether it sets a precedent for the formation of same-sex families in Singapore.

"LGBT persons have a place in Singapore society. At the same time, the Government supports and encourages parenthood within marriage, and does not support the formation of same-sex family units. This is the position that MSF takes in assessing adoption applications."

Mr Lee noted that the Court had reached its decision "with not insignificant difficulty" and had granted the appeal based on the welfare of the child.

"The judges recognised that granting the adoption would go against our public policy against the formation of same-sex family units. However, they decided to grant the adoption after balancing this against the interests of the child’s welfare. The Court emphasised that their decision was based on the particular facts of this case," Mr Lee said.

Mr Lee also noted that the Court had said there was a lack of evidence to show that the applicant had set out to deliberately violate the relevant public policy.

"After the publication of this judgement, since the Courts have recognised that the adoption violates the public policy against the formation of same-sex family units, it may be harder for future applicants doing the same to argue that they did not intentionally set out to do so," he said.

READ: Father's bid to adopt surrogate son dismissed 'on policy grounds': MSF

Mr Lee's response comes after the ministry said on Monday that it will consider if current policies need to be reviewed following the court's decision. 

Mr Lee reiterated on Wednesday that the ministry is "studying the Grounds of Decision carefully before deciding on the next steps".

"We will review our adoption laws and related policies, to see if they should be amended and further strengthened," he said.

The High Court on Monday allowed a gay man’s application to adopt his five-year-old biological son who was born through a surrogate mother in the United States.

The man, a 46-year-old pathologist, has been dating his same-sex partner since 1998. The couple - both Singapore citizens - began cohabiting in 2003 and currently reside with the child and a domestic helper in a condominium, according to court documents.

The couple had initially wanted to adopt but were advised by agencies that their sexual orientation would hinder success. They then travelled to the US and paid about US$200,000 for a woman to carry and deliver a baby through in-vitro fertilisation and then hand the child over.

Regarding the Court's decision, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon wrote: “This consideration carries significant weight, given its bearing on the child’s sense of security and emotional well-being, as well as the long-term stability of his care arrangements."

Source: CNA/na(aj)

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