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Children & Child Custody

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ECHR rules on same-sex adoption case

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled in the case of Gas and Dubois v. France that the refusal to allow a woman to adopt her same-sex partner’s child was not discriminatory.

The applicants, Valérie Gas and Nathalie Dubois, are French nationals who have been cohabiting since 1989.

In September 2000 Nathalie Dubois gave birth in France to a daughter, A, who had been conceived in Belgium by means of medically-assisted procreation with an anonymous donor. The child does not have an established parental tie with the father, in accordance with Belgian law. She has lived all her life in the applicants’ shared home.

In April 2002 Ms Gas and Ms Dubois entered into a civil partnership agreement, and then, in March 2006, Ms Gas applied to the Nanterre tribunal de grande instance for a simple adoption order in respect of her partner’s daughter; her partner had given her express consent before a notary.

In July 2006 the court observed that the statutory requirements for the adoption had been met and that it had been demonstrated that Ms Gas and Ms Dubois were actively and jointly involved in the child’s upbringing, caring for and showing affection to her. However, it refused the application on the grounds that the adoption would have legal implications which ran counter to the applicants’ intentions and the child’s best interests.

This finding was upheld by the Versailles Court of Appeal, which considered that, since the applicants would be unable to share parental responsibility as permitted by the Civil Code in the case of adoption by the spouse of the child’s biological mother or father, the adoption would deprive Ms Dubois of all rights in relation to her child.

The applicants complained of the refusal of Ms Gas’s application to adopt Ms Dubois’s child. They maintained that this decision had infringed their right to private and family life in a discriminatory manner, in breach of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) taken in conjunction with Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life).

In a Chamber judgment, which is not final, the European Court of Human Rights held that there had been no violation of these convention rights. The Court saw notably no evidence of a difference in treatment based on the applicants’ sexual orientation, as opposite-sex couples who had entered into a civil partnership were likewise prohibited from obtaining a simple adoption order.

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Same-sex marriage moves a step closer

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