Minister Desmond Lee addresses concerns over ruling in gay man's adoption case

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

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

This point was highlighted by Social and Family Development Minister Desmond Lee yesterday, in the wake of Monday's release of a High Court decision to grant a gay man's appeal to adopt his five-year-old biological child, who was conceived through commercial surrogacy in the United States.

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, Mr Lee said. "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 admitted that since the ruling, concerns have been raised about the case's implications and whether it sets a precedent for the formation of same-sex families here. He 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 dad 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 flew to the US, where he paid a woman to give birth to his baby.

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

The man, a pathologist, then brought the boy to Singapore, but his bid to adopt him 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.

Yesterday, Mr Lee said: "LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) 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."

SEE FORUM: Clear stance on all forms of surrogacy needed

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 20, 2018, with the headline 'Minister addresses concerns over ruling in gay man's adoption case'. Print Edition | Subscribe