British Legislators OK Gay Couple Adoption

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

London ( - Britain's House of Commons voted Monday to allow homosexual couples to adopt children, defeating a Conservative amendment to exclude gays from new adoption legislation.

The proposal will now go to the House of Lords. The vote came after legislators approved a bill giving unmarried couples the chance to adopt children last Thursday.

Simon Calvert, director of the Christian Institute, said opponents of the bill were ready to take their battle to Britain's upper chamber.

"We've been saying all along that this is going to face a lot more opposition in the House of Lords than in the Hhouse of Commons," he said.

Calvert noted that the Lords includes several Conservative campaigners and 26 Church of England bishops, one of whom has already spoken out against the legislation. He called Monday's Tory proposal a "damage limitation exercise."

"What would be far, far better would be for the law to remain the same," he said.

Although the Christian Institute has thus far led a losing campaign against the bill, Calvert said arguments brought up during the legislative process have raised the level of debate surrounding the issue.

"The proponents of the measure were taken aback during the debate last week," he said. "They can say they won the vote but they can't claim to have won the argument. For example, there is no evidence that there are large numbers of unmarried couples wanting to adopt, and that was shown during the debate."

Bill supporters

Neera Dhingra, a spokeswoman for the British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering, admitted that the number of unmarried couples seeking to adopt was relatively low, but argued that this was a consequence of the current law and that the situation would change if the unmarried couples legislation passes.

"Many unmarried couples choose not to go ahead because only one person in the partnership could legally be a parent," she said.

Under the current law, single people are allowed to adopt but their partners have no legal rights in regards to the child. Dhingra said that according to the latest available figures, single people both with and without partners accounted for 5 percent of all adoptions in Britain.

"It's important that we not arbitrarily restrict the pool of those who can adopt," she said. "We believe that families these days take many forms and that this legislation is in the best interests of children."

Dhingra said the BAAF was confident that the bill would sail through the House of Lords.

"We will be contacting the Lords individually and holding meetings and briefings. We're optimistic," she said.

Politicians in the Labor Party were allowed to vote according to their consciences during last week's ballot but members of the Conservative Party were instructed to oppose the legislation.

Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith voted against it, but several prominent Conservatives defied the order and supported the bill or abstained as it won a 288 to 133 majority.

One Labor member of parliament who voted for the measure was Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose own father was adopted after being abandoned as a child. But Blair denied that his family history influenced his decision.

"The prime minister supports this policy not because of his father but because he believes many children currently in care would thrive and have better futures if they had a loving family of their own," his office said in a statement.

E-mail a news tip to Mike Wendling.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.