In a landmark ruling for socially conservative Singapore, a court has ruled that a gay man has the right to adopt his son, who was born via a surrogate in the United States five years ago. The man, who has not been identified, is a 46-year-old doctor and his son has been living with him and his partner since shortly after he was born.
According to Singapore law, surrogacy is technically banned and any children born out of wedlock are considered illegitimate. With such a status, they do not have the same rights as children born to married couples, unless legally adopted. Same-sex marriage is also banned in Singapore, and sex between men can be punishable with up to two years in jail. A further legal complication is that in vitro fertilization, which is how the man’s son was conceived, is limited to only heterosexual couples in Singapore.
On Dec. 17, Singapore’s High Court made a ruling that eased several of these obstacles. Their decision overturned a district judge’s 2017 ruling that said the doctor could not legally adopt his son because he was conceived through in vitro fertilization and brought to term through surrogacy. The favorable court did not include a positive ruling regarding the doctor’s sexuality or choice of partner, as Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon emphasized that they did not endorse the doctor’s actions.
Despite the lack of support for his sexuality, the doctor was overwhelmingly relieved with the court’s decision to grant him adoption rights for his son, ending the years-long legal battle. For gay men, surrogacy typically costs anywhere between $100,000 and $200,000. The price the doctor and his partner paid was at the top of that range. Their overseas surrogacy services included using the doctor’s sperm to fertilize an egg from an anonymous donor and transplanting the egg into a surrogate mother.
After their son was born the couple, who have been together for 13 years, brought him to Singapore on a long-term visit pass. Authorities denied an early application for his Singaporean citizenship, leading the couple to seek advice from the Ministry of Social and Family Development. The organization advised that the child would have a better chance at citizenship if his biological father legally adopted him.
In December of 2014, his father applied as a single parent to adopt him. Three years later, the district judge dismissed the application in the ruling that was just recently overturned. Now that the father can adopt his son, he and his partner have high hopes that the boy will be allowed to reside in Singapore for the long term.