Virgin Islands top court permits second-parent adoptions by same-sex couples

Virgin Islands top court permits second-parent adoptions by same-sex couples

The Supreme Court of the US Virgin Islands [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Wednesday that second-parent adoptions by same-sex couples are permitted under Virgin Islands law. The children’s fathers are anonymous sperm donors who knowingly waived all of their parental rights. The biological mother and her same-sex partner filed an adoption petition in the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands [official website] in December 2012, which the court rejected. In an opinion by Justice Maria Cabret, the Supreme Court ruled

The Superior Court erred in denying the appellants’ petition for a second-parent adoption because, regardless of whether their marriage is recognized in the Virgin Islands [Virgin Islands law] broadly provides that “[a]ny inhabitant of the Virgin Islands” may petition for an adoption. And even though the adoption statutes do not provide any exceptions to the operation of [Virgin Islands law]—providing that an adoption decree terminates “all legal rights [of the natural parents] as respects the child”—a strict application of this provision would preclude any stepparent or second-parent adoptions in the Virgin Islands and undermine the Legislature’s directive that the best interests of the child must be paramount in adoption proceedings.

The Supreme Court remanded the case for further proceedings, considering the best interests of the child.

Same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] and adoption remain divisive and controversial issues around the world. In April the Florida Senate voted to repeal [JURIST report] the state’s ban on same-sex adoption. In March the Slovenian Parliament [official website] passed legislation [JURIST report] granting same-sex marriage and adoption rights amid public opposition from conservative and religious groups. In February the Constitutional Court of Colombia [official website, in Spanish] upheld [JURIST report] a restriction that same-sex couples cannot adopt children that have no biological relation to either parent. In June the Chambre des Deputes [official website, in French], Luxembourg’s national legislative body, approved a bill [JURIST report] extending marriage and adoption rights to same-sex couples.