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Adoption of Stepchildren in Gay and Lesbian Families in Iceland
 

From ILGA Europe.

By SAMTÖKIN '78

ON 8 May 2000 the Althingi, Iceland's long-established parliament, passed an amendment to the 1996 legislation permitting registered partnerships which have greatly improved the legal rights of lesbian and gay families.

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The new laws are similar to those passed by the Danish parliament in the spring of 1999 and allow Norwegian, Swedish and Danish citizens resident in Iceland to enter into registered partnerships or to enjoy the same legal status in Iceland as would be granted them under registered partnership in their own country.

Other foreigners can enter a registered partnership if they have been resident in Iceland for two years, even if they are not Icelandic citizens.

What attracted most attention, however, was an amendment put forth by the General Committee of parliament that allows a person in registered partnership to adopt the child of his or her partner, insofar as the child's other parent does not have custody claims.

Iceland thus becomes the second country in Europe, after Denmark, to make such an improvement in legislation to ensure the rights of children growing up in gay and lesbian families.

In the last four years Iceland has become one of the world's leading countries in recognising the rights of lesbians and gays:  In 1996 parliament passed a law on registered partnerships and the year after amendments were made to the criminal code to ensure the rights of homosexuals.

Out of 63 parliamentarians, 49 supported the adoption amendment, three abstained and only one opposed the amendment.  Ten members were absent.

Objections were heard from outside parliament, mainly from Christian fundamentalists who conducted a vocal media campaign in an attempt to stop the passing of the amendment.  The so-called 'Campaign for the Protection of Children,' composed mostly of people from fundamentalist churches, sent in a petition signed by 1050 people, or about 0.4% of the population which numbers only 280,000.

"The determination and acuity of the small movement of lesbians and gays in Iceland has led to a miracle in the last two decades," said Mr. Thorvaldur Kristinsson, spokesman of the Lesbian and Gay Association of Iceland.  "It is rewarding to know that a recent Gallup poll shows that two thirds of Icelanders find nothing wrong in lesbians and gays taking responsibility for adopting children.

"This is a nation that only twenty years ago was so prejudiced that homosexuals were forced to immigrate abroad," he continued.  "But our society is small and messages travel fast.  Through cogent arguments we have reached the people of this country."