French court recognises gay couple as parents

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The Independent Online

A gay couple have been formally recognised as parents by the French state, setting a precedent that could eventually apply to an estimated 200,000 children living in homosexual families in France.

Carla and Marie-Laure, and their daughters Giulietta, 10, Luana, seven, and Zelina, five, have been declared one family by the French courts - the first family with parents of the same sex to be officially endorsed.

The ruling could have far-reaching consequences for the survival of legal barriers against homosexual marriage, adoption and artificial insemination. Marie-Laure, 45, and Carla, 46, who live with their children in Paris, have fought a long campaign to be recognised as one family, backed by teachers, paediatricians, neighbours and relatives. By a series of legal manoeuvres, they have succeeded in zig-zagging through French laws which refuse to recognise gay families.

Marie-Laure is the natural mother of the three children. One was born after artificial insemination in France. When France outlawed artificial insemination to lesbians she, like hundreds of other women, travelled to a clinic in Belgium.

In 2001, the three children were adopted by Carla. Marie-Laure gave up her legal rights as their mother but remained as, de facto, one of two mothers. After a change in French family law, Marie-Laure applied last year to have her "parental authority" over the children restored, jointly with her partner. The government argued the two women had deliberately set out to out-flank the opinions of French law-makers and that Marie-Laure's case should be thrown out of court. After hearing from teachers, social workers, doctors and neighbours that the three girls were happy and well-adjusted and regarded both women as their mother, the family court of the Tribunal de Grande Instance decided Marie-Laure's parental authority should be restored "in the best interests of the children". The judge said it was clear both women gave the children "the love, attention and care, appropriate to their age".

The Justice Minister, Dominique Perben, said yesterday that no firm precedent had been set. This was a one-off case, he added.