The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] ruled [judgment] Tuesday that a woman in a same-sex relationship could adopt her partner's biological child [press release, PDF]. The court held that Austria's existing ban on the practice, also called successive adoption, violated Articles 8 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF]. The treatment of same-sex couples was discriminatory, the court said, when compared with unmarried, heterosexual couples in which one partner wished to adopt the child of the other partner. The court also concluded that the Austrian government failed to show that excluding successive adoptions by same-sex couples, while allowing unmarried, heterosexual couples to engage in the practice, was necessary for the protection of the "traditional family" or for the protection of the interests of the child. Following the ruling, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] urged the Austrian government to reform its laws [press release] to reflect the court's decision.
Controversy surrounds efforts to expand the adoption rights of same-sex couples. Earlier this week the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany [official website, in German] ruled [judgment, in German] that same-sex couples in a civil union can legally adopt [JURIST report] the non-biological children of their partners. In October the Northern Ireland High Court [official website] held [JURIST report] that a law permitting adoption only by heterosexual married couples or single individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation, is unlawful. That same month the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals [official website] ruled that an Alabama law defining marriage as between one man and one woman bars a woman from adopting her female partner's child [JURIST report]. Just last March the ECHR ruled [JURIST report] that the right of a person in a same-sex partnership to adopt his or her partner's child is not protected by the European Convention on Human Rights.