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Swiss take baby step to same-sex couples' adoption rights

Switzerland’s National Council backs rights for gay couples to adopt – but only their partners’ pre-existing children after parliamentarians argue it ‘goes against nature’
Federal Palace of Switzerland in Bern – home of the Swiss parliament – which has voted to support limited rights for gay couples to adopt.

Switzerland’s National Council has voted to allow gay couples to adopt each other’s children.

However the motion passed in the lower house of the Swiss parliament yesterday (13 December) is much more limited than the original version approved by the Council of States, or senate.

The Council of States in the Federal Assembly, or parliament, had backed giving adoption rights based on the best interest of the child in question – regardless of marital status or sexual orientation.

But after a heated debate the National Council changed the motion so someone in a gay couple could only adopt any biological or adopted children that their partner had before the start of their relationship.

Single gay, lesbian or bisexual people can adopt children in Switzerland but same-sex couples – even those in a registered partnership – are not allowed to adopt kids jointly.

The 2005 law which introduced registered partnerships, explicitly banned those partners from adopting.

The issue was hotly debated on Thursday (13 December) after Switzerland's largest party, the right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP), rejected the senate’s plans arguing children should have a mother and father.

SVP's Oskar Freysinger said: ‘If we accept this Senate motion today, we are opening a Pandora’s box.’

While Christian Luescher of the Free Democratic Party, which was divided on gay adoption, said it was ‘radical and goes against nature’.

But Socialist Carlos Sommaruga said the current legislation was ‘incoherent’ and ‘leads to distortions and absurd situations’.

Cathy Ecoffoy, the co-president of the Swiss association Rainbow Families, pointed out the incoherence of the current law.

She told AFP: ‘If you have a God-daughter, for instance, who loses her parents, you are not allowed to adopt her because you are in a partnership.’

And under the current law, if the biological parent in a same-sex couple dies a surviving partner has no rights to keep looking after any children, even if they were living together as a family.

The 200-seat National Council eventually voted for the altered motion with 113 votes in favor and 64 against.

Now the issue will be returned to the Council of States and, if they agree to the alteration, the government will draw up proposals for a new parliamentary vote.

However, under the Swiss system, opponents could gather 100,000 signatures to trigger a national referendum on it.

Meanwhile gay campaigners will continue to push for full access to adoption.

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