Here’s how different media reported gay S’porean man’s successful adoption of surrogate child

The ruling has provided a variety of interpretations for various media outlets but there is a common thread that runs through all of them.

Matthias Ang |Jonathan Lim | December 17, 2018 @ 06:16 pm

The Singapore High Court has made a landmark move by approving of a gay man’s adoption, as a single parent, of his surrogate child who was conceived in the United States.

The announcement was made on Dec. 17 and comes nearly a year after the man’s initial bid was rejected in Dec. 2017, by the Family Justice Courts.

The man had fathered the child via surrogacy at the cost of US$200,000.

According to The Straits Times (ST), the man had done so after he was told by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) that it was highly unlikely he could adopt a child with his gay partner, with whom he has been together with for 13 years.

News of the High Court’s ruling has since generated much buzz in the social media sphere, with multiple news outlets such as the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), South China Morning Post (SCMP) and ST picking up the story.

Ruling is quite technical

It’s worth noting that the ruling is highly technical, with Chief Justice Sunderesh Menon explaining that the ruling primarily arose out of a “statutory imperative to promote the welfare of the child”.

The welfare, in this case, includes increasing the chances of the child attaining Singapore citizenship.

Menon further stated that the decision had been “reached through an application of the law as we (the High Court) understood it to be” instead of “our sympathies for the position of either party”.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the ruling:

  • The welfare of the child was regarded as “first and paramount”.
  • The ruling should not be seen “as an endorsement of what the appellant and his partner set out to do”.
  • While the court gave “significant weight” to the concern in not violating the “public policy against the formation of same-sex family units” and “the degree to which this policy would be violated should an adoption order be made”,
  • both concerns were ultimately found to be insufficiently “powerful” in the face of evidence which showed that the child’s welfare would be “materially advanced” by the adoption order.

As such, it is possible to actually gain different impressions of the ruling, depending on which media outlet you followed, due to the different focuses on the ruling.

Here’s how different media reported the ruling

South China Morning Post (SCMP): “Singapore allows two fathers to adopt their surrogate son in landmark ruling”

In the case of SCMP, the headline wrote “two fathers” were allowed to “adopt their surrogate son”.

However, the excerpt stated “the process was treated as single-parent adoption”.

The article gave prominence to the couple’s efforts attaining Singaporean citizenship for the child.

It reported the biological father as saying:

“The fight to raise our family in Singapore has been a long and difficult journey … We hope that the adoption will increase the chances of our son to be able to stay in Singapore with his family. His grandparents and us really want Singapore to be the home of our family. Our family will celebrate this significant milestone.”

SCMP also highlighted Menon’s written statement which noted that allowing the adoption of the child:

“would increase the child’s prospects of acquiring Singapore citizenship and securing long-term residence in Singapore.”

Calling it “Singapore’s first legal acknowledgement of same-sex families”, SCMP quoted the man’s lawyer, Ivan Cheong, who stated:

“…the court found there was no public policy against planned or deliberate parenthood by singles through the use of assisted reproductive technology or surrogacy.”

While SCMP said that the case “provided clarity on surrogacy issues in Singapore”, it did not report Menon’s remarks qualifying the circumstances behind the ruling.

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC): “Gay Singaporean man wins landmark appeal to adopt surrogate child”

In the case of the BBC, the man’s sexuality and nationality were highlighted first in the headline.

The article also highlighted how “same-sex marriages are not recognised in Singapore and gay sex is illegal.”

Much of the article’s introduction also focused on how the rejection of James’ bid in Dec. 2017 left him with “no legal parental rights”.

The article mentioned that it was illegal for homosexuals to marry in Singapore three times, and that the father of the surrogate child had no legal parental rights twice.

The Straits Times (ST): Landmark High Court case allows Singaporean gay dad to adopt surrogate son

This time, the headline began with mention of the High Court first, followed by the orientation of the man.

ST led with the three-judge appeal court’s explanation behind the decision to allow adoption.

ST reported that the decision was based “on the particular facts of the case and should not be taken as an endorsement of what the appellant and his partner set out to do” and that the “decision was reached through an application of the law as we (the judges) understood it to be, and not on the basis of our sympathies for the position of either party”.

ST also reported that lawyers representing the Guardian-in-Adoption from MSF arguing against the adoption, had put forward the argument that the status of the couple would greatly affect the child’s welfare should he be adopted.

ST further quoted the lawyers arguing for the dismissal of the appeal due to the couple having gone “to great lengths to circumvent the laws of Singapore to start a family unit”.

However, in the court’s assessment of the argument made by MSF, ST quoted the court as writing that the Guardian-in-Adoption:

“did not rely on any public policy against surrogacy, nor did she consider herself able to state clearly what the Government’s position on that issue is.”

None of these were mentioned in either SCMP or BBC.

TODAY: High Court grants gay man’s bid to adopt biological son born via surrogate mother

In particular, TODAY brought up the “back door” comment made by the lower court, which stated that the real aim of the bid was to “obtain certain benefits such as citizenship rights by walking through the back door of the system when the front door was firmly shut.”

TODAY further highlighted the lower court’s as stating that the bid “does not further the interests of a four-year-old child… (who) will thrive anywhere if in the hands of loving people”.

In juxtaposing these comments with the current ruling, the decision is made all the more dramatic since the current ruling ends up being framed as more or less a near-total reversal of the Dec. 2017 ruling.

High Court took the side of the child, will not determine social mores

Perhaps the one common thread that runs through all of the articles is that the biological father faced significant opposition prior to arriving at the current ruling by the high court.

It is also worth noting that the High Court has taken the side of the child in its application of the law.

Menon has since stressed the impartiality of the Court and its limitation to purely legislative matters, with TODAY having quoted Menon as stating:

“It is not (the place of the High Court) to determine social policy in our country or to be a player in what has sometimes been seen as the ‘culture wars’ that assail society.”

Top photo from Stephanie Ní Raghallaigh Facebook

About Matthias Ang

Matthias is that annoying guy whose laughter overshadows the joke.

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