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Thursday, 7 March, 2002, 22:57 GMT
Gay father wins landmark ruling
The case was heard at Glasgow Sheriff Court
A gay man who fathered a child for a lesbian couple has been awarded the same rights as a heterosexual father in a landmark legal ruling.

The sheriff hearing the case called on the Scottish Parliament to clarify the law on the parental rights of same-sex couples.

The 30-year-old man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had turned to the courts after disagreements with the lesbian couple over access to the 18-month-old boy.

The boy's mother wanted her partner to be awarded full parental rights.


I was satisfied that the pursuer did not enter into the arrangement lightly

Sheriff Laura Duncan
The court heard that once the baby was six-weeks-old the couple tried to restrict visits.

They said he was just a sperm donor and wanted legal recognition for the mother's partner.

In a written judgement at Glasgow Sheriff Court, Sheriff Laura Duncan ruled that a lesbian couple cannot constitute a family unit.

She said the child's welfare was of paramount importance in granting the man "full parental rights and responsibilities", because it would be in the baby's best interests to have access to his father.

Same sex couples

The written judgement states that the man was named as father on the birth certificate and he signed the document.

"He is therefore liable for the support of the child", it said.

"The pursuer gave the impression of being a thoughtful individual who considered the long-term implications and issues of what he was about to embark upon.

"I was satisfied that the pursuer did not enter into the arrangement lightly," the sheriff added.


Children need parents who love them and whether that is two parents, three parents or four parents, heterosexual or gay, makes no difference

Ally Jarvis
Stonewall Scotland
The sheriff said there should now be a public debate about the parental rights of same-sex couples - and this may ultimately be decided by the Scottish Parliament.

The call for a debate was echoed by gay rights campaigners.

Tim Hopkins of the Edinburgh-based Equality Network said: "I welcome that the sheriff has made it clear that in the case of the father here, the fact that he is gay doesn't stop him from getting full parental responsibilities.

"The law is quite clear that what matters is the welfare of the child but the law needs to be clarified to protect the relationship between the child and the lesbian partner of a mother."

Stonewall Scotland director Ally Jarvis agreed that the judgement was a "positive step".


It should be recognised that children benefit when both their mother and their father have an input into their upbringing

Phil Gallie
Tory MSP

"This is part of a wider debate and I would endorse the sheriff in saying that it needs some more serious thought given to it," she said.

"I would like to see a situation where the best interests of the child are at the forefront.

"Children need parents who love them and whether that is two parents, three parents or four parents, heterosexual or gay, makes no difference."

Scottish Tory MSP Phil Gallie also agreed that the ruling was "spot on" - although he did not support a change in the law.

"It should be recognised that children benefit when both their mother and their father have an input into their upbringing," he said.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Scotland's Aileen Clarke reports
"The women wanted to minimise contact between the father and the son"

Talking PointTALKING POINT
Have your say on the rights of same-sex couples after a sheriff issues a landmark ruling in a Scottish court.Gay rights
Should same-sex couples have all a parent's rights?
See also:

26 Apr 01 | Health
Gays 'have right to parenthood'
01 Jun 00 | Health
Gay men 'take more sexual risks'
31 May 00 | Health
'Screen gay men for cancer'
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