Gay couple in Croatia denied request for joint adoption

8 June 2017 - Two gay men, in their mid-thirties, filed a suit against the Republic of Croatia, due to discriminatory action from their Local Center for Social Welfare, which denied them access to the procedure of joint adoption.

The couple started their relationship in 2013 and formalized their relationship through the Life Partnership Act (the Croatian version of same sex civil union) in 2015. From the very beginnings of their relationship the two men clearly knew that they wanted to become parents. Child adoption seemed as a natural decision for both as it could fulfill their need for parenthood, and to help and provide a loving home for a child that has been abandoned or ended up in the adoption system for any reason.

But when they approached the authorities, their request was denied at the very beginning with the explanation that life partners are not entitled to an adoption procedure. Although they went through the mandatory course for persons who wish to adopt, and submitted all the documentation required by law, the chance to become adoptive parents was taken away from them even before the start of the evaluation procedures that straight couples or single persons must go through, that are handled by the Centers for social welfare in Croatia.

The authorities explicitly stated that the decision to deny them access to joint adoption has been taken based solely on the fact the two men are in a life partnership. But the Croatian Family law does not explicitly forbid life partners to apply for adoption, and the Life Partnership Act states that in all matters of Family Law the life partners (same sex couples) must be treated equally to married couples. In addition, as a member state of the European Union and by signing several EU conventions and adopting EU legal history, Republic of Croatia has committed itself to treat all their citizens without any discrimination.

To make the matters even more absurd, if the couple wasn’t in a life partnership, and if one of them (or both separately) applied for adoption, they would not be denied from the access to the procedure. The association “Dugine obitelji” (Rainbow Families Croatia) commented on the case highlighting this fact and stating that it already has among its members LGBT* individuals who successfully adopted children as single persons. “The state is now sending a message saying that it’s ok if you’re gay and if you apply to adopt if you aren’t married, but if you and your partner decide to come out, celebrate your love and formalize your relationship, you’ll be denied from certain services”, said Daniel Martinovic, a representative from the Rainbow Families during a press conference that was held in Zagreb in early May, to mark the International Family Equality Day.

“While in the last three years, since the Life Partnership Act was passed in the Croatian Parliament with the majority of votes, we witnessed fair treatment from the authorities in the matters of family life, this case really puts us as a country way back. Two years ago, for the first time in Croatian history, a lesbian couple was assigned joint partnership care of a child that was born from one of the partners, and now we see a clear case of discrimination of a gay couple that in the end wishes to help a child that currently has no parents at all”, concluded Martinovic.