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Hugs for a little boy, as ‘arduous’ adoption journey ends with relief and gratitude

SINGAPORE — On the day the High Court released its landmark judgment that ended years of “limbo” for a gay Singaporean doctor and his same-sex partner, a five-year-old boy received hugs from his two fathers that were “a little longer and a little tighter”.

Hugs for a little boy, as ‘arduous’ adoption journey ends with relief and gratitude
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SINGAPORE — On the day the High Court released its landmark judgment that ended years of “limbo” for a gay Singaporean doctor and his same-sex partner, a five-year-old boy received hugs from his two fathers that were “a little longer and a little tighter”.

The toddler, born via a surrogate mother, is unaware that he was at the centre of a high-profile adoption case that ended on a positive note on Monday (Dec 17), his father James (not his real name) said.

Instead, it was playtime as usual for the “active, happy” little boy at the neighbourhood playground on Monday evening, as his grandparents — James’ parents — kept a close watch.

In an email interview with TODAY a day after the High Court decision, James, a 46-year-old doctor, said that as the media was abuzz with the landmark ruling, he and his partner watched their son play with the other neighbourhood children “without a single care in the world”.

“Such is the bliss that we had fought for and we celebrated the outcome with our hearts full of gratitude,” said James, adding that he and his partner, who works in marketing, were “relieved” by the ruling.

The High Court on Monday overturned an earlier ruling by the lower courts that rejected the man’s bid to adopt the child — born in the United States in November 2013 to a surrogate mother. 

On the couple’s next steps for the child, who is an American citizen, James said: “We hope he will be granted Singapore citizenship so that we can all remain together in Singapore.”

Delivering the three-judge panel’s decision, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon said that granting the adoption order in this case would “violate the public policy against the formation of same-sex family units”, but this concern was not powerful enough to ignore the need to promote the welfare of the child and regard it as paramount.

This is the first adoption application here by someone who has openly declared himself to be homosexual and living with his same-sex partner.

AN ‘ARDUOUS’ JOURNEY

Reflecting on the “arduous and protracted” adoption journey that took four years, James told TODAY it was fraught with worries, uncertainty and challenges.

He added: “The most difficult part of the journey, and what kept us up at night, was the uncertainty of our family's future here in Singapore.

“We couldn't plan for our future in terms of our son’s education and our work as we weren't certain if our family would be allowed to be here. Our lives were in a state of limbo.”

The couple worried about migrating overseas, as it meant “finding our rice bowl in a foreign land, loss of family support and care for our son if we (migrated)”.

“Our elderly parents (would also be) heartbroken from having their sons and grandson (move) away,” James added.

James’ parents, both of whom are in their 80s, take care of the child along with their domestic helper.

After the lower court rejected their application last year, James said the couple was “heartbroken”, but decided to appeal the decision.

“We acted on the basal parental instinct to provide the best for our son, cognisant that living in Singapore, where our extended family and social support is, is best,” he told TODAY.

‘NEVER MADE TO FEEL DIFFERENT’

While James declined to comment if he thinks that Monday’s landmark judgment could set a precedent for future cases, he noted that “things are changing very gradually”, and there has been “gradual change and greater acceptance” within Singapore society towards unconventional family structures.

This was despite “government policies (that) discriminate against unconventional families and LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) people”, he said.

“Our neighbours, extended family, colleagues, teachers and parents from my son's nursery, the nurses at the clinic — they’ve all embraced our son and often tell him how lucky he is to have two caring fathers,” said James.

Responding to the Ministry of Social and Family Development’s comments on Monday that it opposed the appeal because the adoption would be “contrary to public policy against the formation of same-sex family units”, James called for more support for unconventional family structures.

Calling the desire to start a family a “fundamental human desire”, he said that every parent, regardless of their sexual orientation or marital status, would want the best for their child.

“The love I have for my son should not be regarded as less because of my sexual orientation,” he said.

“Unconventional families are families too.”

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