Adoption row in France as official says gay people should be given ‘the children no one wants’

A French official sparked a major row Tuesday by suggesting gay people came lower in the pecking order than heterosexual couples when applying to adopt children.

Adoption row in France as official says gay people should be given 'the children no one wants'
Illustration photo: People holding gay and lesbian flags demonstrate to support gay marriage and adoption in Lyon/AFP
Pascale Lemare (see tweet below), head of the adoption service in the Seine-Maritime region of Normandy, northern France, said same-sex couples were likely to be left with adoptive children who were ill or otherwise “atypical”, prompting outrage from gay rights groups. 
“Children that no one wants — there are people who don't want to adopt children who are too damaged, too psychologically damaged, too big, or handicapped,” Lemare said.
She had been asked in an interview with France Bleu local radio if it was more “complicated” for a gay couple to adopt a healthy baby.
“There are parents who correspond better to the required criteria,” she replied.
“Not a gay couple, then?” asked the interviewer.
“Well, no,” Lemare said, adding that same-sex couples were “a little atypical, you might say, with regard to social norms and biological norms”.
She went on: “If their plan includes children with atypical profiles… if homosexual couples have open expectations, they can indeed adopt a child.”
France legalised gay marriage and same-sex adoption in 2013 after large demonstrations against the changes by Catholic and conservative groups.
Pascal Martin, head of the Seine-Maritime region, said he “very strongly condemned” Lemare's comments.
“In no case is the sexual orientation of future parents a criteria of evaluation” in the region, he insisted in a statement.
Lemare was not available for comment, her office said.
But her comments prompted furious reactions from French gay rights activists.
“We are extremely shocked by these comments,” said Alexandre Urwicz, head of the Same-Sex Parents' Association (ADFH), adding that his group had filed a legal complaint.
Geraldine Chambon, a gay rights activist living in Normandy, said she was “scandalised” and similarly considering a lawsuit.
“We had heard things about the region's adoption policy, but it was just rumours,” she said.
France Bleu had spoken to three gay couples who complained that Lemare's department discriminated against them when they applied to become parents.
One woman, a 38-year-old who had been with her partner for 10 years, said she met Lemare in 2016 and was told it would be “very difficult for a homosexual couple to see their application approved”.
“If we wanted to pursue it, we would have to be prepared to take in a child with specific needs — an older child or one with health problems. We ultimately abandoned our plan to adopt,” she said.
“We weren't very surprised by this kind of talk given that we experience discrimination on a daily basis.”
Regional authorities said Martin was waiting for the results of an external audit before considering possible disciplinary action against Lemare.

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EU complaint lodged against French sex ban for gay blood donors

Gay rights groups said Thursday they had filed a complaint with the European Commission alleging discrimination by France over its ban on blood donations by gay men unless they abstain from sex for a year beforehand.

EU complaint lodged against French sex ban for gay blood donors
Illustration photo: AFP
The move came three years after France lifted a 30-year ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood, on condition they practise sexual abstinence for 12 months to guard against HIV transmission.
“This rule, which is still in place, effectively excludes 93.8 percent of gay men from donating blood,” said a joint statement by Stop Homophobie, Mousse, ELCS (Local officials against AIDS), SOS Homophobie and Familles LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender). 
The complaint was lodged on Thursday with the commission in the hope that the policy will be formally recognised as illegally discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. 

France plummets in LGBT-friendliness rankings after homophobic attacksPhoto: AFP

Until July 2016, gay and bisexual men had been completely barred from donating blood under a ban which went into force in 1983 shortly after the HIV virus was discovered.    

It is a sensitive issue in France, where hundreds of people died in the 1980s after HIV-tainted blood was distributed by the national blood transfusion centre.
This law “creates legal uncertainty for LGBT individuals because it makes possible discrimination on the basis of sexual behaviour”, said Etienne Deshoulieres, a lawyer representing both the groups and an individual named in the complaint, who is identified only as “Maxime”.
Earlier this month, Maxime went to give blood at a centre in the Paris suburbs, and while giving his details, said he had been in a relationship for 18 months. 
“The doctor told me that was problematic, that I couldn't give blood,” he told AFP, saying he was advised to make a plasma donation instead, given that he had only had one sexual partner for the past four months. 
“I felt humiliated,” admitted Maxime, a former member of the security forces who has also filed a complaint with the office of France's human rights defender. 
“We are categorised as both 'gay and banned'.”
In response, Stephane Noel, who heads EFS, France's national blood donation service, told AFP it was understandable that a prospective donor “could be disappointed” if turned away.
Doctors working for the service underwent “significant training” in order to explain “with a great deal of sensitivity and respect… why we advise against” certain donations, he said.
Last year, a similar complaint was lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on grounds it undermined the fundamental human rights of gay and bisexual blood donors. 
“The case is still pending,” said Patrice Spinosi, the lawyer who filed the complaint.
According to the latest public study in France, opening up blood donations to gay donors in 2016 has not increased the risk of HIV transmission via blood transfusion.