Singaporean gay man wins right to adopt surrogate son in landmark High Court case

In a momentous ruling by three High Court judges, a Singaporean gay man was granted the right to adopt his five-year-old son who was conceived through the surrogate method in the United States.

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, in delivering his judgement, said that while the decision made by himself and the two other judges sitting at the High Court “should not be taken as an endorsement of what the appellant and his partner set out to do,” he emphasised that there is a “statutory imperative to promote the welfare of the child” and “to regard his welfare as first and paramount”.

This stance, said the Chief Justice, was held by the judges, even after taking into account Singapore’s legislative stance on non-heterosexual parental units and possible legal breaches against the relevant legislation in the event that the adoption order is made.

The 46-year-old man’s son, conceived using his own sperm, and born to a surrogate mother, is a citizen of the USA by birth. He has been living in Singapore on a dependent’s pass which has to be renewed every six months.

He also highlighted that allowing the adoption would “increase the child’s prospects of acquiring Singapore citizenship and securing long-term residence in Singapore”.

Previously, the man and his partner  — referred to as “James” and “Shawn” by the South China Morning Post — had made an application to adopt “Noel” four years ago when he was approximately one year old.

In Singapore, however, children can only be adopted by either singles or married couples, which poses an obstacle to the couple adopting their son as a unit, as they are not legally permitted to marry.

Thus, the couple’s application was rejected by the Family Justice Courts on 26 Dec last year, which led them to file an appeal in the High Court against Judge Shobha Nair’s decision.

With the High Court ruling, James is now able to adopt Noel under the capacity of a single parent, and is now thus able to exercise sole parental rights over Noel, which includes making a citizenship application on his son’s behalf.

Speaking to SCMP, James said: “The fight to raise our family in Singapore has been a long and difficult journey.

“We hope that the adoption will increase the chances of our son to be able to stay in Singapore with his family.

“His grandparents and us really want Singapore to be the home of our family. Our family will celebrate this significant milestone,” he said.

James and Shawn, the latter of whom is also Singaporean, began dating 20 years ago and have been cohabitating for the last 15 years.