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High Court allows gay man to adopt his biological son born via surrogacy – but the government still opposes same-sex families

In a landmark decision, the Singapore High Court ruled on Monday (Dec 17) that a gay Singaporean man was allowed to adopt his five-year old biological song who was born by way of surrogacy in the United States.

In-vitro fertilisation is not an avenue available in unmarried couples in Singapore. The procedure is only allowed to be administered to a married woman with her spouses consent. Add to that the fact that same-sex marriage is not legal in the Republic and homosexuality is still criminalised, this decision seems like a step forward for the modern nation for the LGBT community.

The man in question, a 47-year old pathologist in a long term relationship with his partner, reportedly paid a sum of US$200,000 (S$274,440) for a woman in the US to carry his child via in-vitro fertilisation after learning that his chances of adopting a child in Singapore as a gay man was very slim.

In the three-panel judge decision, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon noted that while granting the adoption in this case would “violate the public policy against the formation of same-sex family units”, this concern is does not supersede that of the welfare of the child, which is paramount. The judges found that the child’s welfare is better preserved with his biological father.

Once the judgement was release, Social and Family Development Minister Desmond Lee wasted no time reiterating the government’s policy against the formation of same-sex family units. In a statement, Mr Lee noted that the ruling has raised concerns about the implication of the case and the precedent it sets for the formation of same sex facilities in Singapore. But with the ruling, he says gay couples seeking to adopt children in the future will find it harder.

This is because one of the main reasons behind the High Court judgement’s ruling in favour of the parent in this case is that they had found little evidence to show that the man has set out to deliberate violate the government’s policy.

As such, Mr Lee asserts that it would be more difficult for future applicants in the same situation to argue that they did not intentionally set out to violate the policy. Mr Lee said, “After the publication of this judgment, since the courts have recognised that the adoption violates the public policy against the formation of same-sex family units, it may be harder for future applicants doing the same to argue that they did not intentionally set out to do so.”

Mr Lee continued by saying that the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) will be studying the grounds of the decision and review their adoption laws and related policies to see if they should be amended or strengthened.

Mr Lee emphasised, “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.”

He also said that while that is the current policy, the LGBT community still has a place in Singapore’s society.

If that sounds hypocritical to you, then that’s because it is. How can you tell an entire community that you think they are criminals for who they are attracted to and limit their freedoms in their own country while still saying that they have a place in your nation?

Responding to the news and Mr Lee’s statements, former Associate Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy(LKYSPP) Donald Low said that this isn’t progress. He described the High Court decision and subsequent statement from Mr Lee as “two steps forward, and two steps back” for Singapore.