Progressive America, conservative France?
If you had to guess, where would you say a gay couple has a better chance of legally adopting a child: a) France or b) the United States? The answer, of course, is b. We all learned a lesson about the social progressiveness of Europe, as opposed to the conservative United States, last week when a French court declared, for the first time, that a lesbian could legally adopt a child as an individual.
That breakthrough, which came in an appeal of a lower court’s denial of the woman’s petition, put French law on a par with that of Texas. That state, like most others in the narrow-minded United States, already allowed gay individuals to petition for adoption. (To be sure, this right exists on paper but may be subject to ideological variation among local courts.) In addition, several U.S. states allow same-sex couples to marry, which they still can’t do in France. And there are some states -- California, Illinois and Oregon, for example -- that do not have gay marriage but still permit gay couples to petition to adopt.
However, it is still against the law in France for gay couples to adopt as couples. The government of President Nicolas Sarkozy -- who declared during his victorious 2007 campaign that France’s “model must remain that of a heterosexual family: children need a father and a mother” -- reaffirmed that ban after the court’s ruling. An official promptly announced that the government “respected” the court’s judgment but still opposed adoption by gay couples.
As for the rest of Europe, there are a couple of countries -- Italy and Latvia -- that still ban even gay individual adoptions. This could change in the wake of the French ruling, especially since the European Court of Human Rights had disapproved of France’s policy.
To be sure, four U.S. states -- Arkansas, Michigan, Mississippi, and Utah -- ban gay couple adoption, as France does. But these states also ban unmarried heterosexual couples from adopting. (Florida’s ban on gay adoptions, by individuals or couples, is in limbo after having been overturned by a trial court; the state is appealing.) In other states, the law is either permissive or uncertain. In other words, gay men and lesbians seemingly have somewhat greater adoption rights in the U.S. than they do in the second-largest country on the European continent, and in several smaller ones as well.
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