STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) - A French court on Tuesday allowed a lesbian woman to adopt a child with her partner after 11 years of legal battle, in what gay rights campaigners said was an unprecedented victory.
French law allows single people to adopt but not same-sex couples, a position that has been criticized by the European Court of Human Rights.
Some couples get around the ban by filing an application in the name of only one partner and ticking the “single” box, but 48-year-old teacher Emmanuelle B. was determined to have the right to adopt as a couple recognized by the courts.
She prevailed on Tuesday when an administrative tribunal in the eastern town of Besancon overruled the regional authorities, who had rejected the woman’s application.
“This is a wonderful victory against homophobia, at a time when homophobic comments and attitudes are still common in our society,” said Caroline Mecary, the woman’s lawyer.
Government spokesman Luc Chatel said the ruling would provide food for thought for policymakers.
“The government and the president have on several occasions expressed our position which is that we are not in favor of the adoption of children by same-sex couples,” he told reporters after the weekly cabinet meeting.
“A legal ruling has been handed down. Well, we have to take note and I think it should contribute to our thinking on the subject,” Chatel said.
Emmanuelle B. had been fighting to assert her right to adopt with her partner since 1998, when the authorities rejected her first application. She had taken her case to the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled in her favor in January 2008.
The Court said France was applying double standards because on the one hand it allowed single people to adopt, while on the other hand it was denying that right to Emmanuelle B. on the basis that there was “no father figure” in her home.
Despite that ruling, the authorities rejected a new application from the woman, this time saying that she and her partner had different ideas about the preferred age of an adoptive child.
France’s own consultative anti-discrimination body, the Halde, criticized the stance of the authorities in an October 5 report on the issue.
Green Party legislator Noel Mamere, who in 2004 had tried to challenge the ban on same-sex marriages by celebrating a symbolic gay wedding in the town where he is mayor, said that the Besancon ruling was an important step forward.
“It’s about time that politicians should stop being cowardly and drop their stupid representations of what a family should be,” Mamere said in comments posted on the website of television channel Public Senat.
Writing by Estelle Shirbon