“No matter who’ll be in government after the elections, I’m optimistic they’ll help us make adoption the next thing…”
In 2006 the Icelandic Parliament, Alþingi, legalized joint gay adoption. However since that time there has been little progress. Currently no same-sex couple has adopted a child in Iceland. Gayiceland.is met up with Anna Pála Sverrisdóttir, the newly stated chairman of Samtökin ‘78, The National Queer Organization, and found out why the delay.
Do gays and lesbians still face discrimination in Iceland when it comes to adoption?
In practice, yes, is the short version of my answer. Straight couples and single people are able to adopt but despite the legislation from 2006, LGBTQ people are unable to. Legal equality is vital of course, but sometimes not enough, as this example clearly shows us.
Would you say that adoption agencies are overall gay friendly in Iceland?
There is only one adoption agency in Iceland! We’re a small country. Luckily, their attitude is positive towards gay adoption. However, we need a joint push to see our equal rights realized and the government may have to be involved. The attitude from the government is positive as well, but what needs to happen is that gay adoption becomes a priority of both of the aforementioned. It’s a question of being proactive. Perhaps the LGBTQ community hasn’t been pushing enough for that to happen. It can of course be hard to campaign openly for something so personal.
What is the biggest reason things are moving so slowly?
I probably already explained the underlying factors, but let me emphasize that what we need to see is a bilateral international adoption agreement with a progressive country that’s up for gay adoption. Iceland is economically well off even despite the recent crash, so very few babies are adopted domestically each year. Gay and lesbian couples have taken children into foster care, though. Regarding intercountry adoption let me add that the rights of the child always have to be the top priority and it has to be made sure that the rules of the Hague Adoption Convention are followed.
Considering the current situation do same-sex couples have a better chance of adopting a child, after getting a divorce first and then applying for adoption as single parents?
It’s ironic that we even need to think about this possibility! How on earth would states rather want one loving parent than two to take care of children in need? At least we know that the chances are better for single people. But out of respect for the marriages of LGBTQ people let me say that I hope in the near future we won’t have to consider that possibility any more.
It is said that the Icelandic government, both this one and the one before, has yet, after all this time, to make an adoption agreement with countries where gay couples are included. What do you make of that?
I don’t care about the past, what I care about is how we can make things right, and make it soon. Admittedly, Iceland has from 2008 had to go through a lot economically and therefore politically. The government has probably had to face the most difficult tasks that any Icelandic government has had to deal with, which may have led to less space for prioritizing issues like this one. In my opinion, there certainly is space by now, so let’s make this happen!
With a likelihood of a new government being elected in less than two weeks, are you optimistic that things will change for the better?
What’s special about Icelandic politics, in a very positive way, is that there is respect for LGBTQ rights across the political spectrum. The current government has both legalized queer marriage and adopted a bill on the rights of trans people, which is great. No matter who will be in government after the elections, I’m optimistic they’ll help us make adoption the next thing that happens.
How have matters fared in countries where joint gay adoption has been legalized?
Well, without trying to portray myself as an expert, I know that possibilities are opening up in some countries domestically. It is intercountry LGBTQ adoption that is lacking and Iceland is no exception.
How long does it usually take for joint gay adoption to be legalized and until it comes into full effect?
I don’t feel comfortable trying to answer that question as I feel that I’d need more expertise and insight into the situation in different countries around the world!
What’s your advice for gay couples wanting to adopt in Iceland?
My advice number one for couples considering this is that they get in touch with the Icelandic Adoption Agency as well as Icelandic authorities and tell them that this is what they want. I believe that too many never get in touch or consider this possibility since they know that right now there are no adoptions taking place. I think that creates a kind of a Catch 22 position since it’s less likely that things start to move if there’s little pressure from within our community.
Having said that, of course there are some ways for LGBTQ people to have children, although the situation differs. I already mentioned that offering to become foster parents is a slight possibility and then there are many that become parents to their spouses’ children. Maybe “adoption” isn’t the keyword in such situations but “connection” as the most important thing is not the “ownership” of the child but being able to care for them and love them.
Surrogacy is illegal in Iceland but has been campaigned for greatly in recent years by some and might become political reality. But it is actually hotly debated within my organization and therefore we do not have a stance on the issue.
How are Samtökin ’78 going to react to this matter?
We. Will. Keep. On. Pushing.
There’s a special ad hoc committee within the organization focusing only on this issue and within it are people who both are parents and have gone through the adoption process (without success, obviously) and therefore have knowledge of it. The new board that got elected a month ago is very determined to keep working on this, which is done through different canals.
For example, as we have elections in less than two weeks in Iceland, a detailed questionnaire has been sent out to all political parties about if and how they will work towards gay adoption. Next Thursday night at 8 p.m., we have an open meeting with candidates from at least 10 parties where this along with some other important LGBTQ issues will be discussed. The meeting will take place at Samtökin ’78, located on the 4th floor of Laugavegur 3, downtown Reykjavík.
Anna Pála Sverrisdóttir
Chairman of Samtökin 78
The National Queer Organization