Policymakers are proposing to reform Germany’s adoption law, making it easier for a family with two moms, a biological mother and her female partner, to have full custody and legal rights for their child without the nonbiological mother having to go through a complicated adoption process.
However, the legislation would not do the same in the case of two men.
Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht of the Social Democratic Party, who has been serving as minister of Justice and Consumer Protection in Angela Merkel’s administration, supports the new proposition.
“The diversity of our society is reflected in the families: Children grow up in blended families or with parents who are not married to each other or who live in same-sex relationships. The law must react to these diverse forms of family coexistence,” Lambrecht said on her website.
Earlier this month, Lambrecht told the German Catholic KNA news agency that the nonbiological female parent should be able to be the child’s legal guardian “without having to go through an elaborate adoption procedure."
In the same interview, according to Deutsche Welle, Lambrecht said that in the case of two men, the nonbiological father would still have to apply to adopt the child through the country’s regular court procedures.
"We want to adhere to the principle that the first parental place is reserved for the biological mother who gave birth to the child. Her presence is a basic requirement. Therefore, for male couples the only option left is [still] adoption," she said.
Germany legalized same-sex marriage in 2017, a move that simultaneously legalized adoption for same-sex couples — but only married couples. While it was a major milestone for LGBTQ+ rights in the country, there are still systemic barriers same-sex couples face that are tied to cultural attitudes around LGBTQ+ families.
In Germany, surrogacy is banned and domestic adoptions are uncommon. As it stands, under what is known as “fiktiver Vaterschaft,” or notional paternity, if a man is married to a woman he can be automatically recognized as the father of that child even if he’s not the biological parent. That is not the case for families of female couples.
“We had to go through a longwinded six-month stepchild adoption process for Vanessa [her wife] to also be recognized as the mother,” Sarah Kinzebach, a German IT professional, told Reuters last year.
“Our social worker seemed so worried that there was no father in the picture,” added Cheron Singleton, who used a sperm donor to have a baby with her female partner. “We did get the feeling that she thought it wasn’t a good idea to bring a child into the world without a father.”
Still, there is vocal opposition to the proposed reform. Deutsche Welle cites a report on Germany’s Legal Tribune Online stating that the planned reform of parental custody law goes against the recommendations set by conservative family law experts.
"Contrary to the recommendations of a high-profile working group, there will still be no automatic parental custody for unmarried fathers," the LTO reported, explaining that eight family law experts had spent over a year advising the federal Justice Ministry on parental custody law to adjust to the growing acceptance of LGBTQ+ families.