fighting the man

What Can France’s Gays Do To Protect Their Children When Only One Parent Has Legal Status?

Powered by article was written by Alexandra Topping in Paris, for The Guardian on Friday 25th March 2011 18.39 UTC

Gay couples in France are resorting to drastic measures to have children, according to campaigners.

Couples were resorting to costly and legally precarious methods, said Philippe Rollandin, spokesman for APGL, the largest association representing homosexual parents in France.

Campaigners are also unhappy that the children of homosexual couples have less protection than the offspring of heterosexual pairs if one parent dies or the couple separates.

“Homosexual couples are becoming more dismayed and angry about this clear discrimination in France, particularly as we are seeing the situation changing so clearly in Europe,” he said.

Unlike in the UK, where gay parents have equal rights over their child, in France only one – the biological or adoptive parent – has automatic parental rights, said Caroline Mecary, a specialist gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights lawyer.

This means the non-biological parent cannot make emergency health decisions, travel alone with the children or pass on their inheritance. Crucially, if the officially recognised parent dies, the child is, in legal terms, an orphan in the eyes of the state.

“One half of the couple has no legitimacy in the eyes of the law, which is bad for the parents but even worse for the children,” she said. “They are left in a legal no-man’s land.”

Rollandin said a ban on gay couples adopting had resulted in a generation of “Thalys babies”, named after the high-speed train line between France and Belgium, where women can legally obtain artificial insemination. The APGL estimates that about 70% of lesbian couples with children used artificial insemination, which can cost between €1,000 (£880) to €3,000 (£2,600) in Belgium and up to €€6,000 in Spain.

Male couples were increasingly resorting to paying surrogate mothers to have children, said Rollandin. About half use this method, costing up to €120,000. Lesbian and gay couples are also using matchmaking websites to meet other couples or donors in order to have children.

French adoption laws which stipulate that only heterosexual couples or single people can adopt had led some couples to feign singledom, he said. “Gay couples are forced to hide and act hypocritically. Morally, and legally, it is right on the edge.”

According to the INED demographic studies institute, about 30,000 children are being raised by gay parents in France, but the APGL puts the number at more than 250,000.

Anne, who did not wish to give her surname, adopted two children from Russia with her former partner. They have since separated and share child-rearing, but their recent demand to share parental responsibility was rejected and led to two girls aged two and 11 being interviewed by police. “I find that abhorrent – all I want is security for my children,” she said.

The fight for equal parenting rights suffered a blow earlier this year when the French constitutional court ruled laws banning gay marriage did not violate the constitution.

Mecary said only a change in government would provide any prospect of improved gay rights. “I think we will only see a change if the Left come into power in 2012. For the moment, there is nothing in the legislative plan that suggests things could move forward,” she said.

One mother, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: “We don’t feel like making waves or fighting; we want society to recognise that we have a different type of family. We are just trying to fit in.” © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

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  • D.R.A.

    This is somewhat off-topic, but I’m annoyed by the way some gay people revere and laud Europe as if it’s some big gay paradise. About as many European countries as US states have marriage equality, only a few European countries explicitly give same-sex couples equal adoption rights, and a lot of areas in Europe are pretty homophobic (see: most non-Western European countries).

  • Hue-Man

    There’s something wrong with the last quotation: “…we want society to recognise that we have a different type of family.” A family with two dads/two moms and a kid is no different than a man/woman and kid family. Society should treat marriages (PACS in France) equally. The only way to make sense of the quote is if the comparison is to an arrangement where two unattached individuals raise a kid, i.e. not as a family, which must be a pretty rare event.

    To state the obvious, fully equal marriage – not civil unions or marriage lite or PACS – is the only way of avoiding these destructive individual issues. One law should fit all.

  • The sane Francis

    This is absolutely awful. It’s interesting, though—-a lot of people think France is basically all about free love, totally carefree. It is (was, it’s more liberal now than before) actually a pretty socially conservative place. And in a country where polling and studies have had same-sex marriage support around 60%, there is a real lack of legal equality for LGBT citizens and the current government is conservative. In any case, I really hope there is a change here. Can the UN step in and do something, or is there some type of lawsuit that can be done to change this?

  • Steve

    The UN doesn’t have any real power. The European Court of Human Rights could intervene in theory, but they have been pretty loath to make such sweeping changes in the entire European Union (not unlike the US Supreme Court in that regard). Imposing marriage equality like that – or any other big issue for that matter – would no go over well with most member states.

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