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Individual Adoption by Non-Heterosexuals and the Order of Family Life in the European Court of Human Rights

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This article analyses two judgments by the ECHR on granting authorization to adopt to non-heterosexual people. E.B. v. France overturned Fretté v. France, establishing that refusing to grant adoption licences to gay, lesbian, and bisexual applicants is against the provisions of Article 14 (in conjunction with Article 8) of the European Convention. In Fretté, an adoption licence was not granted to a single gay man due to, notably, ‘lack of scientific consensus’ on the advisability of child rearing by non-heterosexuals. In E.B., it was established that prejudice against sexual minorities had ‘contaminated’ the reasoning of the French administrative courts. The cases are considered from a sociological viewpoint, stressing that it is of vital importance to look at the non-legal expertise, knowledge, and theories referred to. Because of the politicized nature of the issue, scientific consensus or lack of it cannot be considered the final yardstick, and judges and decision-makers are faced with an inevitable political choice.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Sociology, P.O. Box 35, 00014 University of Helsinki, Finland., Email:

Publication date: December 1, 2009


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