France’s highest court ruled Wednesday that a child born to a surrogate mother abroad can now be adopted by his or her biological father’s partner, thereby granting them full legal protection as French citizens.
The ruling is a major victory for same-sex couples in France, as many depend on foreign surrogacy to build their families. The practice, in which a woman carries and gives birth to a child on behalf of someone else, is strictly prohibited in the country.
While it’s legal for gay couples to work with surrogate mothers from countries such as the United States or Russia, up until now, children born of these partnerships have been denied French birth certificates and any means by which to claim citizenship.
“For France, these are neither my children nor my husband’s,” said Sarah Levine, a Denver native who is married to a Frenchman. “According to French law, we are nothing.”
A gay couple with a 3-year-old son born to a surrogate in Russia brought the case to the court alongside a single father in a similar situation.
The proceedings saw the prosecution urge the country to recognize the “ghosts of the Republic” while the defense condemned surrogacy as the “commodification of women’s bodies.”
In the end, the court refused to automatically recognize both parents on the birth certificate, but did rule that the biological father’s partner could apply to adopt the child.
“The court chose a third path, between refusal and transcription pure and simple. That clearly isn’t satisfying for every family, but it allows children born to surrogates to establish a legal relationship with both parents, the biological father and the sociological father,” the one who raises them, said Patrick Spinosi, the lawyer representing one of the families.
France isn’t the only country caught up in a debate over the legality of surrogacy. Earlier this year, an Italian court ruled that a gay couple should be legally recognized as the fathers of their surrogate twins while in India, the government is working to ban both domestic and foreign surrogacy all together.