British Legislators OK Adoption By Unmarried Couples

By Mike Wendling | July 7, 2008 | 8:11 PM EDT

London ( - The British House of Commons voted Thursday to allow unmarried couples to adopt children, but a Conservative legislator tabled an amendment to exclude homosexual couples from the legislation.

The measure passed by a majority of 155 and a vote clarifying who will be eligible under the bill will be held Monday. The bill will then go to the House of Lords, where it is expected to face significant opposition.

Unmarried couples are not allowed to adopt children under current British law. Individuals can apply for adoption, but their partners have no legal parental rights regarding the child.

The vote came less than two weeks after Health Secretary Alan Milburn announced his support of the legislation.

"What (this legislation) is simply about is to widen the pool of potential adoptive parents so that more children that are vulnerable ... have the chance of the stable family life that adoption can bring," he said.

During Thursday's "free vote," whips from the ruling Labor Party did not enforce a party line and legislators were able to vote according to their personal beliefs on the issue.

Conservative M.P. Robert Walter proposed the amendment that would specifically exclude gay couples from the legislation.

In advance of the vote, Walter told the BBC that his proposal was "not a homophobic thing."

"It is simply that we are replacing the parents of vulnerable children and those children are coming from broken homes and broken backgrounds," he said. "I believe we should be giving them a male and female role model in the adoptive family."

The unmarried adoption measure came as an amendment to a bill to create a national adoption register and was opposed by Conservative Party leaders and several religious organizations. The Christian Institute, which favors leaving current adoption law unchanged, said unmarried couples provide less stable homes than married couples.

Christian Institute Deputy Director Simon Calvert said that special interest groups and campaigners against traditional families had bullied the government into allowing the vote.

But the country's leading group of adoption agencies, British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF), supports the bill.

BAAF Chief Executive Felicity Collier said Thursday's ballot was a "vote for children."

"There are simply not enough adopters coming forward for the children who need them and that we need to cast the net for potential adopters as widely as possible," she said.

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