February 19, 2013 | by Michael K. Lavers
European court finds Austria’s gay second-parent adoption ban discriminatory
European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg, gay news, Washington Blade

The European Court of Human Rights (Photo by CherryX via Wikimedia Commons)

The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday ruled Austria’s ban on second-parent adoption for same-sex couples is discriminatory.

Two women who have been raising a son born to one of them in 1995 submitted an adoption application to a local court in early 2005. The couple also requested the Austria Constitutional Court, which is the country’s highest tribunal, declare the portion of the civil code that prevents the same-sex partner of a parent to adopt his or her child.

The Constitutional Court in June 2005 rejected the couple’s petition, and the local court four months later refused to approve the women’s application. A regional court in Feb. 2006 rejected the women’s appeal.

The couple in April 2007 brought their case to the European Court of Human Rights, which is located in Strasbourg, France, after the Constitutional Court ruled against them. The judges heard it last October.

“This is a very significant and important victory for rainbow families in Europe,” Martin K. I. Christensen, co-chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board. “We hope that this judgment will pave the way towards the removal of the remaining legal barriers for these families in Europe.”

Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom are among the European countries that currently allow second-parent adoption for same-sex couples.

The French National Assembly earlier this month approved a bill that would extend both adoption and marriage rights to gays and lesbians. Lawmakers in Luxembourg and Switzerland are currently considering second-parent adoption measures.

“We feel very hopeful that this case will lead to our children’s rights gaining better recognition throughout Europe,” Juha Jämsä, vice president of the Network of European LGBT Families Associations, said in a statement. “No group of children should be discriminated against because of their parents’ sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.”

Souhayr Belhassen, president of the International Federation for Human Rights, agreed.

“This is an important step forward towards the application of the principle of non-discrimination based on the sexual orientation and strengthening legal security and certainty for children,” she said. “This ruling should guide not only domestic courts, but also the legislator in European states that have not yet amended their legislation in that direction.”

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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