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MSF to review adoption laws after gay man is allowed to adopt his biological son

Following the Singapore High Court’s ruling to allow a gay Singaporean man to adopt his 5-year old biological son who was conceived via in-vitro fertilisation and carried to term by a surrogate in the US, the Ministry for Social and Family Development (MSF) says it will be reviewing adoption laws and practices.

The High Court ruled that while Singapore’s legislative stance on non-heterosexual parental units is clear, there was a ‘statutory imperative to promote the welfare of the child’ and ‘to regard his welfare as first and paramount’. Therefore, the man was allowed to adopt his biological son.

The Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said in Parliament on Monday (14 Jan) that there needs to be an ‘appropriate balance’ when weighing the welfare of a child against ‘important public policy considerations’ during adoption proceedings.

He added, "Following the Court’s judgment, MSF is reviewing our adoption laws and practices to see how they should be strengthened to better reflect public policy, which in turn is a reflection of the values of our broad society today.”

“For instance, while the welfare of the child should always be a very important consideration in adoption proceedings, we are looking at whether the Adoption of Children Act needs to be amended so that an appropriate balance can be struck when important public policy considerations are involved," he said.

I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds like Mr Lee is saying that they’re going to make sure to close any loopholes in the legal system to ensure that no same-sex couples can form a family unit in Singapore in the future. Or they're trying to make it harder to do so than it already it.

The landmark court ruling on Dec 17 last year allowed the 46-year old pathologist the right to adopt his son who was born via surrogate in the US. The man has been dating his same-sex partner since 1998, also a Singaporean.

The couple had initially wanted to adopt but were advised by agencies that their sexual orientation would be a challenge. So they then travelled to the US and reportedly paid about US$200,000 for a woman to carry and deliver a baby conceived through in-vitro fertilisation using a donated embryo. The baby was handed over to them and they have been living together in Singapore as a family since.

In December 2017, the Family Justice Court had ruled against the adoption. The man then appealed to the High Court where his application to adopt was granted.

While the government doesn’t interfere with the private lives of its citizens, Mr Lee emphasised that MSF does not support "the formation of family units with children and homosexual parents, through institutions and processes such as adoption".

He reiterated previous comments that LGBT persons have a place in Singapore and are entitled to their own private lives. He added that they also have access to opportunities and social support and are not subject to prejudice and discrimination.

He continued, "however, we must be mindful that a push for rights and entitlements which broader society is not ready for, or able to accept, will provoke a pushback, and can be very socially divisive. A push to use legislation or the courts to precipitate social change involving issues as deeply-held and personal as this, polarises society."

He went on to say that an adoption order serves to make a child legitimate under the law but does not ‘guarantee’ benefits and privileges such as citizenship, education or housing.

"Access to housing will continue to be determined by prevailing criteria, in line with public policy supporting parenthood within marriage," he said. "All Singaporean children, regardless of their legitimacy status, will receive Government benefits that support their growth and development, including healthcare and education benefits,” said Mr Lee.

So LGBT persons are ‘welcome’ in Singapore and are ‘free of discrimination’ but not really, especially if they want to start a family?

On the issue of surrogacy, Mr Lee was asked a question by Member of Parliament Christopher de Souza on whether the MSF will ban commercial surrogacy in Singapore.

Mr Lee responded by saying that this ‘complex issue’ has ‘ethical, social, health and legal implications for all parties involved’. He noted that concerns have been raised on commercial surrogacy in particular, specifically about the exploitation of women and commodification of children. He added, “These issues are not trivial, and warrant careful study and discussion."

Currently, surrogacy cannot be carried out in Singapore at any licensed healthcare institution that provides assisted reproduction services and parents who have gone overseas for surrogacy and return to apply for adoption of their surrogate children will have their applications assessed on a "case-by-case basis", added Mr Lee.

So while MSF wants to appear to be inclusive of all Singaporeans, it seems they are still nowhere close to being okay with non-heterosexual couples raising a family in Singapore and are still 'guarding' the sanctity of the 'traditional' family with all their might.