Finnish/French lesbian couple with children urges the European Union to act

10 Feb 2011

ILGA-Europe regards this case as a very good example of what can happen when there is lack of mutual recognition of same-sex couples within the EU member states.


The Finnish lesbian woman lives in Paris, France, with her French partner. The couple is registered under a French PACS (pacte civil de solidarité, a type of registered partnership -though it differs from most other types of registered partnerships regarding divorce procedure, immigration and adoption rights).

They have two children which are born in Paris. The children hold Finnish nationality as the Finnish women is the children's only parent since France does not recognise her French partner as the second parent. The couple are both registered as legal guardians of their children until they turn 18 years old.

However, the legal guardianship prevents the children from

* inheriting property and belongings from their second parent and her family
* using the second parent's surname
* having French citizenship and a French passport like the French second parent

Moreover, if the biological mother dies while the children are under 18, the guardianship of the unrecognised second parent will end automatically. In that case, the children would be considered orphans. A judge would then decide whether or not the second parent could adopt them. The guardianship may also end before the children turn 18 in case of a separation for instance. The right of the children to keep contact with both of their parents is therefore not guaranteed, and they can lose their right to obtain financial support from both of their parents.

The couple has looked into moving to Finland, where second parent adoption is possible for same-sex couples. Finnish law even permits second-parent adoption for couples living abroad if one of the parents or the children holds a Finnish citizenship, and if adoption is not possible in the country of residence. But the Finnish Civil Registry expressly refused in March 2010 to recognise the French PACS when the couple requested them to acknowledge it. Therefore the request of adoption by the second parent was dismissed by the Helsinki Court of Justice (Helsingin käräjäoikeus) in December 2010.

This leaves the couple and their two children in a grey zone area where either France or Finland wants to solve their obvious problem in enjoying their full right as a family.

The European Commission has already announced in the Stockholm Action Plan a legislative proposal "on mutual recognition of the effects of certain civil status documents (e.g. relating to birth, affiliation, adoption, name)" aimed at eliminating barriers to the recognition of legal acts in the European Union.

So the European Union has to come forward with these measures urgently and to ensure that these apply without discriminations based on sexual orientation, including to same-sex second parents, to overcome situations similar to this present case.

ILGA-Europe is following this case closely, and has already together the European Parliament's Intergroup on LGBT Rights provided the Finnish/French family with information to bring this clear example of discrimination forward.


Via ILGA Europe