Which laws control the adoption rights of lesbian and gay couples?
The Adoption and Children Act 2002 provides that an application to adopt a child in England and Wales can be made either by a single person or a couple.
Prior to the Act, there was a requirement that a couple was married. The Act removed this condition, thereby enabling same-sex couples (who cannot get “married”, but can enter into a civil partnership) to apply for joint adoption.
Supporting the Act, the Labour Party-inspired Sexual Orientation Regulations came into force in 2007, making it illegal for providers of goods and services – including adoption and fostering services – to discriminate against people on the basis of their sexual orientation. The Regulations formally became part of the Equality Act, which was passed in 2010.
Why was the Adoption and Children Act created?
The Act was created following a government review of the rules, regulations and procedures governing the provision of adoption services in England and Wales.
The review, which was carried out in 2000, revealed that many children were being kept in the care system unnecessarily and for an excessively long period of time without adoption being proposed as a viable option for their future development.
The purpose of the new Act was to replace provisions of the outdated Adoption Act of 1976, make adoption law consistent with the Children Act 1989 and ensure that the welfare of the child was the paramount consideration in all decisions relating to adoption.
Therefore, in a bid to widen the pool of candidates available to apply for adoption, the Act removed the bar on unmarried couples with a view to encouraging more applicants – including same-sex couples – who expressed an interest in applying for adoption, but whom were previously considered ineligible to do so.
When did the Adoption and Children Act come into effect?
The Act received Royal Assent (or royal approval making it law) on 7 November 2002. However, the Act did not come into force in its entirely until three years later on 30 December 2005.
In legalising gay adoption, England and Wales joined the ranks of other European countries such as Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Norway, Scotland, Spain and Sweden.
How can lesbian and gay couples apply for adoption under the Adoption and Children Act?
To be considered adoptive parents, any couple – lesbian, gay, heterosexual, married or unmarried – has to prove the existence of two sets of circumstances. Firstly, that they have a stable and lasting relationship and, secondly, that they can provide a loving family environment for a child.
Is adoption a “lesbian and gay rights” issue or a “children’s rights” issue?
According to government ministers who supported legalising adoption for lesbian and gay couples, adoption is not a “lesbian and gay rights” issue, but is rather one about providing as many children as possible with a stable, loving family environment. In this sense, both the Government and the judiciary consider adoption to be a “children’s rights” issue.