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GLBT adoption may follow marriage in Belgium
Tuesday Dec 30th, 2003 5:44 PM
In a move that would make it one of the world's most gay-friendly nations, Belgium appears poised to grant same-sex couples the right to adopt children, only months after becoming the second nation in Europe to legalize gay marriage.
The government is ready to begin lifting legislation that blocked lesbian and gay people from adopting and becoming parents, according to the main coalition partner in Belgium's parliament.

"Research and the practical experience of countries which already allow adoption by same-sex and bisexual couples show that children raised by same-sex parents are not affected in a negative way," the VLD party said in a statement on its Web site. The VLD is the Flemish Liberal Party headed by Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt.

The legislation appears on track to pass in 2004. A draft of the bill will be drawn up in the first half of next year, according to Verhofstadt.

Shannon Minter, spokesperson for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, told the network on Monday that Belgium is taking a positive step forward.

"Belgium's decision is a welcome and long-overdue step to modernize its adoption laws," said Minter. "Research has shown that sexual orientation is not relevant to parental ability, and that children raised by lesbian and gay couples are just as healthy and well adjusted as those raised by heterosexual parents."

Several other European nations already allow same-sex couples to adopt, as well as some Canadian provinces and Western Australia, according to Minter.

U.S. adoption laws regarding adoption by gay and lesbian people vary by state and county.

The state of Florida has an outright ban on adoption by gay and lesbian individuals. In other states, county judges often have the final say, so decisions can vary. Some states have been open to second-parent adoptions for same-sex couples.

Last month, the National Center for Lesbian Rights filed a lawsuit in California state court against, the largest Internet-based adoption business in the nation, for refusing to permit same-sex couples to use its services.

"The suit is the first to challenge adoption discrimination against lesbians and gay men by a for-profit adoption service, as well as the first to challenge anti-gay discrimination by an Internet business," said Minter.

In Belgium, there was some opposition in Parliament to changing the law to allow same-sex couples to adopt. However, forces in favor of the move appear to have the votes to pass the measure.

Belgium's population of 10 million, which is 75 percent Roman Catholic, has increasingly broken from its conservative traditions.

Last February, the Belgian government voted to give gay couples the same legal status as heterosexual ones, and the first same-sex marriage was held in June when the law took effect.

The tiny country, about the size of the state of Maryland, is located between France and the Netherlands. Its capital, Brussels, is the seat of both the European Union and NATO.