Singapore’s LGBT Community Celebrates a Big Court Win

A Singapore court has ruled  that a gay man can adopt a son he fathered through a surrogate in the United States, creating a landmark for the community that improves their claim to family rights.

The man, who cannot be named but is a 46-year-old pathologist living in Singapore, contracted the services of a surrogate in the United States, paying approximately $200,000. This might seem like a lot of trouble to father a child, but Singapore still criminalizes gay relationships and gives same-gender couples no marriage or adoption rights.

Nevertheless, the man and his partner took to the courts to try to legitimize their son in the eyes of the law. Singapore law considers children who are born out of wedlock illegitimate. They cannot access the same rights as the children of married couples—that is, unless a family legally adopts them.

A court had previously rejected the man’s claim to being the child’s legitimate father. Even though the Pennsylvania state surrogate who carried the child to term had voluntarily relinquished all parental rights and had signed papers to that effect, the court found that it could not allow the adoption to take place, in part because the man was not married. The court did not specifically cite the man being in a same-gender unions in its decision. Rather, it cited the ethics surrounding surrogacy and how the man had attempted to use a “back door” into being a father when he was told that domestically he would not be able to access the surrogacy system.

This had effectively barred the child from gaining citizenship in Singapore and risked leaving the boy stateless.

However, this past week Singapore’s High Court overturned that decision. CNN reports that Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon’s decision to overturn the lower court’s ruling is not an “endorsement” of the method by which the men sought to gain parental rights and that the court did give ”significant weight” over the couple being a same-gender family unit.

However, “The evidence has demonstrated to us that it is very much in the interests of the Child that the adoption order be made, having regard principally to the fact that his prospects of acquiring Singapore citizenship could be significantly enhanced,” the judge said.

This means that the man who has a biological claim to the child will be given sole parental rights. For this reason, this is not a complete win for the LGBT community and yet, given the landscape of colonial anti-gay laws under which the community suffers, this represents a landmark moment in the struggle for equality. Whether the court is prepared to frame it this way or not, it recognizes that families can look different from the two-parent heterosexual couple the state endorses.

This does not mean that the child, who is now five, will be automatically granted residency in Singapore, but it does significantly improve his chances.

The couple’s lawyer, Ivan Cheon, tells the BBC that his clients are overjoyed at this decision and that, “At the end of the day, it is about what is in the child’s best interest. Being recognized as a legitimate child and having his long term residential status met have always been our client’s primary concerns.”

While being in a same-gender relationship is illegal in Singapore, courts no longer invoke the colonial penalties. Instead, Singapore uses soft enforcement via social taboos: while there is some tolerance for gay people, and even annual Pride parades, giving formal recognition under the law is a step too far. Ex-gay therapy is unfortunately common in some parts of Singapore, and while Singapore does grant the right to serve in the military, it gives little else in terms of legal recognition for gay people.

Yet attitudes are changing. While a majority of the public polls against same-gender marriage and adoption rights, that figure is slowly decreasing. As visibility of LGBT people in Singapore grows that looks set to continue.

This court victory, then, is another small but important step along the path to full equality.

Related at Care2

Photo credit: Getty Images.

40 comments

Maria P
Mia P4 months ago

thanks for sharing

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silja salonen
silja salonen5 months ago

YAY

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Emma L
Past Member 5 months ago

Thank you

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Daniel N
Past Member 6 months ago

thank you for sharing

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Vincent T
William T6 months ago

thanks

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Mia B
Past Member 6 months ago

Thank you for sharing

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Gino C
Past Member 6 months ago

thank you

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danii p
danii p6 months ago

Thank you

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danii p
danii p6 months ago

Thank you

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danii p
danii p6 months ago

Thank you

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