Gay parents seeking to adopt their kids may find it harder to prove they did not intend to violate policy against same-sex families: Desmond Lee

A High Court ruling on Monday (Dec 17) allowed a gay Singaporean man to adopt his biological son.
A High Court ruling on Monday (Dec 17) allowed a gay Singaporean man to adopt his biological son.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Gay parents hoping to adopt their biological children may find it harder to argue in court that they are not intentionally going against Singapore's stance against same-sex family units.

This point was highlighted by Social and Family Development Minister Desmond Lee on Wednesday (Dec 19), in the wake of Monday's release of a High Court decision to grant a gay man's appeal to adopt his biological child - who was conceived through commercial surrogacy in the United States - in the interest of the child's welfare. The boy is now five years old.

The judges in the case had recognised granting the adoption would go against "our public policy against the formation of same-sex family units", but found a lack of evidence that the man had set out to deliberately violate it, said Mr Lee.

"After the publication of this judgment... it may be harder for future applicants doing the same to argue that they did not intentionally set out to do so," he added.

He admitted that since the ruling, concerns have been raised about the implications of the case and whether it sets a precedent for the formation of same-sex families here. Mr Lee said his ministry is studying the grounds of decision carefully before deciding on the next steps.

“We will review our adoption laws and related policies, to see if they should be amended and further strengthened.”

The biological father and his partner, both Singaporeans aged 46, had cohabited for 13 years. After being told by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) that it was unlikely to recommend adoption by a homosexual couple, the man then flew to the US where he paid a woman US$200,000 (S$275,000) to give birth to their baby.


Although not explicitly outlawed, such a surrogacy arrangement is not allowed in hospitals here.

The man, who works as a pathologist, then took the boy to Singapore but his bid to adopt him, and thereby get him Singapore citizenship, was rejected by a district judge last year. 

He appealed, and in judgment grounds issued on Monday, the three-judge court made it clear that its decision to allow the adoption was based “on the particular facts of the case and should not be taken as an endorsement of what the appellant and his partner set out to do”.

While the court found that there is a public policy in favour of parenthood within marriage and a policy against the formation of same-sex units, the welfare of the child would be significantly improved if an adoption order was made, wrote Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon in the judgment.

Mr Lee said on Wednesday: “LGBT persons have a place in Singapore society. At the same time, the Government supports and encourages parenthood within marriage, and does not support the formation of same-sex family units. 

“This is the position that MSF takes in assessing adoption applications. The High Court has recognised that this public policy is a relevant consideration in adoption proceedings.”