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Europe

Sweden Opts for Gay Adoption

The Swedish Parliament passed a law this week giving gay- and lesbian couples the same rights as heterosexuals to adopt children.

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"Where did I come from?.."

Sweden this week became the first country in Europe to allow same-sex couples to adopt children from abroad. Denmark, Iceland and the Netherlands allow homosexual couples limited rights to adoption.

In Sweden, gays and lesbians living in registered partnerships will now able to adopt their partner's biological children.

The 'ayes'..

Tasso Stafilidis, a member of the Swedish Parliament, began campaigning in 1997 to change the law preventing same-sex couples from adopting international children or raising children of their own. In 1999-2000, an inquiry into adoption and parenting by same-sex couples found that gays and lesbians made just as good parents as heterosexuals.

The vote this week was overwhelmingly in favour of the law to grant equal rights to same-sex couples. Tasso Stafilidis, who is openly gay, told DW-WORLD that the result shows Swedish Parliamentarians, as well as the wider public, are well-informed about homosexuality. "They know that it's not anything special to be homosexual."

But Stafilidis says Swedes have less understanding of same-sex parenting. "When they don't have knowledge, they can't be open-minded or have a good attitude," he says.

..and the 'nays'

Despite being passed by a convincing majority this week, the law has faced opposition within the Swedish Parliament. Two parties, the Conservative Party and the Christian Democrats, voted against the Bill.

Christian groups have joined right-wing politicians in opposing the law. They say that adopted children are vulnerable and should not be exposed to additional stress that could result from growing up in an unconventional family environment.

Some still more equal than others

The law means that all Swedish couples can legally adopt in future, it does not have retrospective effect. The many adopted children already living with same-sex couples will not automatically become legal.

The battle isn't quite over for same-sex couples in Sweden hoping to adopt. Very few Swedish children are put up for adoption, which means couples must look abroad. In a survey of seventeen countries conducted by the Swedish Foreign Ministry, all said they would refuse homosexuals as adoptive parents.

But then, if Sweden had been asked that question a fortnight ago, it would have given the same response.

Chronology of rights

  • Wednesday, June 5, 2002: Swedish Parliament passes a law giving same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples, including the right to adopt children from abroad.
  • May 2002: Britain's lower house of Parliament votes to allow unmarried and same-sex couples to adopt. The House of Lords has yet to pass the Bill.
  • February 2002: The European Court rules that authorities in Europe can legally refuse applications from homosexual men and women to adopt children. The judges rule that "the scientific community...child specialists, psychiatrists and psychologists – are divided on the eventual consequences of a child being cared for by one homosexual parent or a homosexual couple."
  • August 2001: 'Homosexual marriage' is legalized in Germany, giving same-sex couples the right to adopt.
  • December, 2000: The Dutch Senate passes laws allowing same-sex couples to marry and adopt children. Civil partnerships have already been legal for more than two years.
  • 1996: In Iceland gay- and lesbian couples are permitted to adopt each other's children.
  • 1995: A partnership law is enacted in Sweden giving same-sex couples almost the same legal rights as married heterosexual couples.
  • 1989: Denmark becomes the first European country to allow lesbians and gays to enter formal partnerships, followed in 1993 by Norway. Homosexual couples cannot adopt children.