Gay adoption: Judgment reserved

2002-05-09 14:24

Johannesburg - The Constitutional Court has reserved judgment on whether the Pretoria High Court was right to declare certain sections of legislation on adoption "unconstitutional and invalid".

Pretoria High Court Judge Anne-Marie de Vos and her life-partner Suzanne du Toit applied to the Constitutional Court to confirm the Pretoria High Court's ruling that legislation preventing Du Toit from adopting De Vos's two children was invalid.

Lawyers for the two women, who are partners in a permanent relationship and have lived together since 1989, presented lengthy argument to a full Bench of 11 Constitutional Court judges on Thursday.

In 1995, De Vos and Du Toit applied to the Children's Court for full adoption of the two children they consider theirs. Because of provisions of the Child Care Act, however, it was not possible for the adoption order to be made jointly and only De Vos is the children's legal parent.

Curator appointed for children

Subsequently, they instituted proceedings in the Pretoria High Court where they challenged the constitutionality of those provisions. The High Court declared the challenged provisions of the Child Care Act and the Guardianship Act unconstitutional and invalid.

The applicants now seek confirmation of this ruling.

In the Constitutional Court, a curator has been appointed to represent the interests of the two children, as well as other children, born and unborn, who may be affected by the court's order.

The curator has submitted a report to the court. It addresses the issue of whether joint adoption and shared guardianship of a child by same-sex permanent-life partners are in the best interests of the child.

In addition, the Lesbian and Gay Equality Project has been admitted as a "friend of the court" and made submissions on the absence of any statutory provisions concerned with the welfare of children of same-sex partners in the event of the termination of the parents' relationship.

Lawyers for the two women said they were hoping for a judgment within a few weeks, but that it could take longer.