The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) said that it will consider if the relevant law on adoption should be amended, following a landmark decision by the High Court on Monday (17 December) to allow a gay Singaporean man to adopt his biological son.
“MSF respects the Court’s decision. We will study the grounds of decision carefully, and consider if the relevant policies and legislation need to be reviewed and further strengthened,” said the MSF in its statement.
The man’s application to adopt his son, born in the US through a surrogate mother, was first turned down by District Judge Shobha Nair in December last year. The 46-year-old pathologist, who has not been identified, then appealed to the High Court.
In delivering the verdict by the three-judge panel, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon noted that the welfare of the child shall be the “first and paramount” consideration and evidence has demonstrated “that it is very much in the interests of the child that the adoption order be made”.
“His prospects of acquiring Singapore citizenship could be significantly enhanced by making an adoption order, which would, in turn, lead to an overall increase in the stability of his life in Singapore,” said CJ Menon.
However, he added that the decision should not be taken as an endorsement of what the man and his partner set out to do. According to court documents, the man is currently in a 13-year relationship with a Singaporean male partner of the same age.
“Our decision was reached through an application of the law as we understood it to be, and not on the basis of our sympathies for the position of either party,” said the High Court in a 145-page judgement. “On balance, it seems appropriate that we attribute significant weight to the concern not to violate the public policy against the formation of same-sex family units…with not insignificant difficulty, therefore, we conclude that an adoption order ought to be made in this case.”
Oppose same-sex family units: MSF
The MSF noted that in its verdict, the High Court had recognised the existence of two public policies.
The ministry had opposed the man’s appeal because the adoption would be contrary to public policy against the formation of same-sex family units. He had also gone overseas for surrogacy to form a single parent household when surrogacy is not permitted in Singapore.
“We encourage parenthood within marriage, as this is the norm in our society. We do not support the formation of same-sex family units,” said its spokesperson.
The man had initially approached the MSF to inquire about child adoption. However, he was told that the ministry was unlikely to recommend the adoption of children by parties in a homosexual relationship.
The man then travelled to the US where his sperm was used to impregnate the egg of an anonymous donor via in-vitro fertilisation (IVF). A surrogate mother carried the embryo to term for US$200,000 (S$267,680).
He brought his son, now five years old and an American citizen, back to Singapore to live with him and began adoption proceedings to “legitimise (their) relationship” as well as secure Singapore citizenship for the child.
Lawyer on High Court ruling
In a statement issued after the High Court ruling, the man’s lawyer, Ivan Cheong, said the case is important because the court found that there is no public policy against parenthood by singles through the use of assisted reproductive technology or surrogacy overseas.
“That means that just because a child is conceived to a single biological parent through surrogacy would not make it fatal to any intended application (for adoption or other relief) by the single parent,” Cheong added.
While surrogacy is not permitted in Singapore, assisted reproduction services in the country can be provided to a married woman with the consent of her spouse.
Under the Adoption of Children Act, payment or reward to the biological or adoptive parents for the adoption of the child is prohibited, except with the sanction of the court.
All adoption applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis taking into account the best interests of the child, the MSF said in a previous statement. The factors that it would consider include the applicant’s parenting capacity, parenting beliefs, family circumstances, support network and ability to meet the child’s long-term needs.