In our strict justice system, humanity exists. And somewhere in Singapore, a gay couple is going to have one of their best Christmases, complete with a family of their own.
Here’s What Went Down
On Monday, a landmark high court case has allowed a gay Singaporean man, who’s a pathologist, to legally adopt his own surrogate son.
He had wanted to adopt a child together with his long-time gay partner, but was told by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) that this was unlikely because of their sexuality.
The pathologist then went to United States (US) and paid US$200,000 for in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) procedures. He successfully fathered a son in 2013 through surrogacy arrangements. He brought his son back and applied to adopt his son but was rejected by a district court last year. Judges maintained that the pathologist was attempting to (in other words) ‘find a loophole to legally adopt his child despite the existing laws that are preventing it’.
The pathologist appealed his case. The case was brought to the High Court (Family Division), which, on Monday, approved his appeal to legally adopt his biological son as a single parent.
Why The Adoption Was Allowed Even Though It Violates Public Policies
Singapore has always been known for having a no-nonsense attitude towards law enforcement. So, the fact that the court ruled (in a way) against certain public policies is a pretty big thing.
In particular, the judges had to weigh the concerns of Singapore’s public policies of parenthood within marriage, and against the formation of a family with same-sex parents. Ultimately, the judges ruled in favour of the adoption as they found the welfare of the child paramount, and that the adoption will contribute to enhancing the child’s sense of security and emotional well-being, and care arrangements.
Although, the three-judge court stressed that the decision was made based on the facts of the case and in accordance to the law, not on any emotional grounds: “Our decision was reached through an application of the law as we understood it to be, and not on the basis of our sympathies for the position of either party,” Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon wrote on behalf of the court.
The court also said that the judgment “should not be taken as an endorsement of what the appellant and his partner set out to do”.
In other words, the decision to allow the adoption for this case should not be interpreted as the court (or judges) endorsing or approving the formation of a family with same-sex parents. Neither is it a statement about being pro-surrogacy.
Nonetheless, it is worth noting that despite all that has been said out loud, the court has also approved the adoption knowing that the child will (inevitably) be adopted into a family with same-sex parents.
Which begs the point: what is Singapore’s view on same-sex parents household now, and how is MSF going to deal with this and its relevant policies moving forward?
The ripple of social implications is significant, and it is already beginning, with MSF responding to concerns on whether the recent High Court ruling on the case sets a precedence for the formation of same-sex families in Singapore. MSF has also affirmed that they will consider if relevant policies need to be reviewed.
As Singaporeans are going to start probing for answers on issues of IVF, surrogacy, and LGBT rights following this case, our civil servants in the ministries will, perhaps, need to OT more and our ministers need to start assembling their committees to think of how to tackle all these rising concerns. Even keeping things as status quo wouldn’t be easy as the relevant ministries will still have to justify their position on these issues that has been indirectly dug up by the high court through this case.
Regardless, it is heartening to see our high court doing their job as a judiciary and being able to objectively prioritise welfare above ‘the rules’. Afterall, that’s the point of a court system: so that the judges can interpret and apply our laws on a case-by-case basis.
Anyone can blindly follow the rules in the book, and honestly, it would have been no surprise, albeit sad, if this case was ‘brushed away’ again just because ‘public policies say no’. For rising above that and being able to prioritise the welfare of the people in our strict and world-class court, I’m thankful and glad. Thank you Chief Justice and the two other judges for restoring my faith in our courts.
(Header Image Credit: Aditya Romansa on Unsplash)