Thursday, 7 February 2013

Nyet Spasiba! – Marriage Equality puts Anglo-Russian Adoptions in Doubt

In the aftermath of the historic Commons’ vote on Tuesday paving the way for marriage equality, Russian officials have said that British couples might be precluded from adopting Russian orphans. 

Quoted in The Telegraph, the human rights envoy at the Russian Foreign Ministry said, "The British and French parliaments have legalised same-sex marriages.  This narrows the chances of citizens of these countries adopting Russian children.”

According to Russia Today, Pavel Astakhov, Russia’s Children’s Rights Ombudsman, said same-sex couples in France would not be allowed to adopt Russian children.  Presumably, the same will be true of British same-sex couples. 

He cited in support of this policy the Russian constitution’s definition of marriage as a “union of a man and a woman.

The official position on gay marriages is stated in Russian official documents, the family code and the constitution,” he said. “They put it straight that the marriage is a union of a man and a woman. We do not have anything else. Period.”

These proclamations follow a ban on adoption by US couples, passed in December 2012.  The justification for the ban was said to be a concern that Russian children were being abused by their adoptive parents in the US. 

Commentators believe, however, that the ban is a reaction to the US approval of a law allowing Russian officials suspected of human rights violations to be sanctioned.
One Russian legislator, Leonid Kalashnikov, who was not present for the vote on the US adoption ban, described the law as “vindictive”.

In a quote appearing in the Los Angeles Times, Kalashnikov said, "The Kremlin didn't really want to spoil relations with the United States but couldn't leave an unfriendly act unanswered.  So they let off steam by using the fate of thousands of orphans as a lever of political pressure."

According to New York’s Russian Children’s Welfare Society, there are currently more than 700,000 orphans in Russia.  This figure is increasing annually at a rate of 113,000 children.

Tragically, some of those hundreds of thousands of vulnerable children will be denied a chance to experience a loving family environment, on account of antediluvian views about how worthy or otherwise people might be as parents based upon their sexual equipment.  A view which, incidentally, runs contrary to all credible studies on topic, which consistently show the sexual orientation of adoptive or foster parents makes precisely no difference to the quality of the parenting they provide (see, for example, the results of a study published in November 2012 by psychologists from the University of Central Los Angeles on outcomes depending on whether adopted children were placed with gay, lesbian or heterosexual parents).

This truism has fortunately been recognised for some time in this country.  The now defunct Adoption Act 1976 did not allow same-sex couples to adopt.  This was overcome by courts making adoption orders in favour of one of the couple, in the knowledge the child would live with them both.  I was involved in several cases where this work-around was used to ensure the best interests of the child concerned were met. 

And the overhaul of our adoption laws in the form of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 confirmed that adoption orders could be made in favour of civil partners, or two people (whether of differing or the same sex) living together in an enduring family relationship. 

Nyet Spasiba indeed, Russia. 

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