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Saturday, November 27, 1999Lesbian couples in Alberta win right to adopt
First for province: Judge orders costs to be paid by government
CALGARY - Two lesbian couples have won Alberta's first same-sex adoption case in a ruling that lawyers say will set precedents for some 60 other provincial statutes.
Jeff Mcintosh, National Post
Mandy, left, John and Joan became a legal family following an Alberta Court of Queen's Bench ruling yesterday. Their real names have not been used; a publication ban prevents them from being identified.
Justice Peter Martin of Court of Queen's Bench, ruling jointly yesterday on the two cases, said the lesbian women who had applied to adopt the sons of their same-sex partners were "devoted parents" actively involved in the raising of two "healthy, happy and well-adjusted boys."
He ruled the adoptions were in the best interests of the children and ordered that costs, estimated at $300,000, be paid by the Alberta government, which had opposed the adoptions for more than a year. The province withdrew its opposition in April and later amended legislation permitting adoptions by same-sex couples. British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec have similar legislation permitting same-sex adoptions.
In remarkably similar cases, the two women, identified only as "K" and "A," had been involved in long-term relationships with their partners. In each case, the couples decided, after six years together, to have a child by artificial insemination. The biological mothers each gave birth to a son. One of the boys is 12. The other is four.
Under Alberta's Child Welfare Act, any information that could identify the children, including the women's names, cannot be made public even though the four women involved did not object.
"We would like to have that freedom because we do have lots that we can say," said "A," a 51-year-old professional. "I think what the public needs is a positive image of family from the gay and lesbian community."
The major breadwinner, she called the ruling "a big relief" that gives her adopted four-year-old son legal entitlement to an inheritance and workers' compensation benefits, among dozens of other legal rights available to children of heterosexual couples. The ruling also gives the family the right to apply for health benefits as a unit, rather than each woman carrying separate insurance, one of the many family law matters that will be affected by the ruling.
"The parents are ecstatic, relieved and proud because their children now have legal protection," said Gary Courtney, who, with Sandra Sebree, represented both couples.
"We are not talking about special rights, we're talking about equivalent rights that are taken for granted by anyone else. They were moved to action over concern for their children and lack of rights that the children had and the non-birth parent had," Mr. Courtney said.
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Alberta Family and Social Services Ministry Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Edmonton
A resource centre for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered community.
LAMBDA Institute of Gay and Lesbian Studies
A good resource for services catering to Alberta's gay and lesbian community.
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