A gay man has won a legal battle in Singapore to be legally recognised as the parent of a child he fathered through surrogacy abroad.
The Singapore High Court ruled on Monday that the 46-year-old gay man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, will be able to adopt the child, reversing a previous decision from a lower court.
The man has been in a relationship with another man for more than a decade—the two have been living together since 2003, according to the South China Morning Post—and used his sperm to conceive the child through surrogacy in the US.
The child was born in the US in November 2013 and the man was able to bring him to Singapore, being his biological father. But the formal adoption case to legally recognise the child as his own, which started in December 2014, was turned down by a judge last year on the grounds that Singapore does not recognise LGBT+ families.
“it’s the first time surrogacy and gay adoption have been canvassed in court.”
— Lawyer Koh Tien Hua
The city state also does not recognise marriage equality and maintains a ban on homosexual acts under the Section 377A law, which was imposed during British colonial rule.
But the three-judge appeal court recognised that the case’s specific circumstances placed the child’s wellbeing over the status quo.
According to the judges, the reasons motivating the lower court’s decision were not “sufficiently powerful to enable us to ignore the statutory imperative to promote the welfare of the child, and, indeed, to regard his welfare as first and paramount,” TheStraits Times reported.
The ruling marks the first time a court effectively recognises a same-sex family unit. One of the man’s attorneys, Koh Tien Hua of Eversheds Harry Elias, believes the ruling provided clarity around issues of surrogacy in Singapore.
“This is a landmark case because it’s the first time surrogacy and gay adoption have been canvassed in court,” he told Channel NewsAsia.
The judges however insisted the ruling is not meant to signal support for policy change in that regard.
“Our decision should not be taken as an endorsement of what the appellant and his partner set out to do,” said Chief Justice Sunderesh Menon in his judgement, quoted by the BBC.
The judge added there was “significant weight” put towards the concern that the ruling would “not violate the public policy against the formation of same-sex family units.”
For the gay man, his partner and their child, the ruling was nonetheless a cause for celebration.
“The fight to raise our family in Singapore has been a long and difficult journey,” he told the South China Morning Post.
He added: “We hope that the adoption will increase the chances of our son to be able to stay in Singapore with his family. His grandparents and us really want Singapore to be the home of our family. Our family will celebrate this significant milestone.”