European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association

European Court of Human Rights says lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals are eligible to adopt children

Today the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights delivered its judgement in a case of E.B. v France and said that exclusion of individuals from the application process for adoption of children simply because of their sexual orientation is discriminatory and is in breach of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Ms. E.B. is a lesbian nursery school teacher who has been living with another woman since 1990. She applied for approval as a possible adoptive parent in February 1998, but her application was rejected, essentially because of her sexual orientation. In June 2002, the highest administrative court in France upheld the rejection of her application.

ILGA-Europe, FIDH ( Fédération Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l'Homme), APGL ( Association des Parents et futurs Parents Gays et Lesbiens) and the BAAF (British Association for Adoption and Fostering) were granted permission to take part in the proceedings as third parties.

In 2002 in the very similar case of Fretté v France, the European Court of Human Rights ruled by 4 votes to 3 that the exclusion of a gay man from the application process for adoption of children, because of his sexual orientation, did not violate Convention (but only 1 judge in the majority considered the exclusion justifiable; the other 3 rejected the case on technical grounds).

Patricia Prendiville, Executive Director of ILGA-Europe, said:

“We welcome today’s judgement of the European Court of Human Rights. This is a significant change in the Court’s approach towards and interpretation of the rights of LGBT people under the European Convention on Human Rights. Today the Court firmly established a principle that administrative officials cannot discriminate against an individual on the basis of her/his sexual orientation in the process of applying to adopt a child. This builds on the Court's judgments in Smith & Grady v United Kingdom (1999), that LGBT people must be allowed to serve in the armed forces, and Mouta v Portugal (1999), that the sexual orientation of a parent is irrelevant when determining who should have custody of a child.

Until today France permitted administrative officials to exclude openly lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals from applying to adopt children. The European Court of Human Rights has decided that such a practice is discriminatory and violates the European Convention on Human Rights.

No one has an automatic right to adopt a child. But what the European Court of Human Rights said today is that European countries can no longer justify exclusion of lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals from applying for a child adoption. The Court has established the principle that ILGA-Europe has long fought for– each individual should be treated equally on the basis of their individual merits as a potential parent when applying to adopt a child. The sexual orientation of the applicant is irrelevant and cannot be used to exclude them from the possibility of adopting a child. It is in the best interest of children in Europe and outside Europe that no potential adoptive parent be excluded from consideration for an irrelevant and discriminatory reason."

For more information please contact
Juris Lavrikovs at + 32 2 609 54 16 / + 32 496 708 375

Notes for editors:

(1) ILGA-Europe is the European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association and works for equality and human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Europe: www.ilga-europe.org

(2) Written comments of ILGA-Europe, FIDH, APGL and BAAF in the case of E.B. v France is available at ILGA-Europe website:

http://www.ilga-europe.org/europe/litigation_in_the_european_courts/euro...

(3) Media release and summary of the judgement are available on the website of the European Court of Human Rights: http://cmiskp.echr.coe.int/tkp197/view.asp?action=html&documentId=827939...