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French Court Grants Adoption Rights To Lesbian Couple Who Conceived Through IVF


In a historic first, the top civil court in France has ruled that authorities must allow a lesbian woman to adopt her partner's child, regardless of how the child was conceived.

For gay couples who want to have their own biological children, in-vitro fertilization, or IVF, allows one person to serve as a biological parent for the child, who will then be conceived using either a donor egg or sperm and, for same-sex male parents, a surrogate mother. For many, it serves as a suitable compromise, with the person who holds no biological connection to their child adopting them along with their partner, who holds custody as a biological parent.

Though the procedure is popular among gay and straight couples who need help conceiving in the United States, Canada, and several other countries around the world, France has not treated it as favorably. The country has legalized same-sex marriage in 2013, but it's currently illegal for a gay couple, married or not, to use IVF to conceive children. Meanwhile, surrogacy is illegal for all French citizens. In response to this, some couples are having IVF performed in neighboring countries, such as Belgium, then returning to France and continuing the adoption process as normal. As many gay couples in France are now legally married, the non-biological parent expects to hold the same right to adopt their partner's biological child as any other married person.

Last May, a French court refused to allow a lesbian woman to adopt her wife's biological child (conceived through IVF in Belgium,) claiming that the couple had committed fraud by going abroad for the procedure. The couple appealed and took the case to the Cour de Cassation, which holds a similar role to the Supreme Court in the United States, being France's court of last resort for civil and criminal cases. After reviewing the case, the court ruled in favor of the lesbian couple, arguing:

"Adoption by same-sex couples is an effect produced by the law on marriage between persons of the same sex, approved on 17 May 2013. As such, it should be granted on condition that it is legal and in the child's interest."

Though the same-sex marriage law in France opened adoption rights to gay couples, it doesn't change the status of IVF, which, in theory, remains only available to straight couples. The ruling issued by the Cour de Cassation is merely advisory, but could help regularize similar adoption cases. According to the French Ministry of Justice, in the past year, 281 couples out of 295 were able to adopt a child conceived abroad via IVF -- approximately 95% of the cases.

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Michelle Ehrhardt