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The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that France discriminated against a lesbian woman by preventing her from adopting a child. The nursery school teacher, 45, has lived with the same female partner for nearly 20 years. But she was turned down by French authorities who stressed the absence of a father figure. In Strasbourg however, the European Court condemned France, which, like many other countries, does allow unmarried people to adopt.

A majority ruling, by 10 votes to seven, found that article 14 of the Human Rights Convention combined with article 8 had been violated. The French state was ordered to pay the woman 10,000 euros in damages.

Article 14 forbids discrimination. Article 8 provides for the right to respect for one's private and family life. This is a victory that could have an impact on gay adoption laws in countries across Europe.

That is because, from now on, France and all other member nations of the Council of Europe will no longer be able to refuse adoption to a single person because of their homosexuality.

However, adoption by gay couples remains illegal in France, unlike nine European countries where it is permitted - Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Iceland, Norway, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Sweden.

Spanish gay couples, for example, benefit from the same rights as heterosexual couples regarding their children, because, legally, they are their parents.

In France, where homosexual marriage is not allowed, adoption by a lesbian or gay person could now be possible.

But there remains the question of their partner's status. For, legally, the companion would have no rights over the child, not being recognized as his or her parent.


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