The Hungarian Parliament has voted once again today on the new Civil Code adopted six weeks ago, but vetoed by the President of the Republic. As a result of the most recent amendments the law now makes it possible for cohabiting couples – regardless of gender – to adopt their partner’s children. Registered same sex couples are still not allowed to adopt: they have to divorce, adopt and reregister.
After ten years of preparation work, the Hungarian Parliament adopted the new Civil Code on September 21, 2009, but President of the Republic László Sólyom refused to sign the law claiming that the parliamentary debate was not thorough enough and he disagrees with several provisions of the law. Following the veto, the Parliament reopened the debate and a few amendments were introduced. Responding to requests from LGBT NGOs the liberal Alliance of Free Democrats introduced an amendment to equalize adoption rules for spouses and registered partners and to allow second parent adoption for cohabiting couples. Although the amendment was refused, a new compromise amendment was introduced and later adopted that makes it possible for cohabiting couples who have been raising a child together for a substantive period of time to become joint legal parents of the child through second parent adoption.
According to the final text of the law, the following rules will govern adoption in Hungary: individuals can adopt children regardless of marital status (whether single, married, registered partnered or cohabiting), but preference has to be given to adoption by married couples. Joint adoption is available only for married couples. Second parent adoption is available for married and cohabiting couples regardless of gender, but not for registered (same sex) partners. As a result, same sex couples living in a formal, marriage like institution cannot both become parents, while those living in informal cohabitation can. This highly unreasonable and discriminatory allocation of rights is a result of political considerations: by addressing cohabiting couples socialist politicians could avoid talking specifically about expanding the rights of same sex couples.
The adoption of the new legislation does not mean that same sex cohabiting couples can become joint parents automatically: all adoptions have to be authorized by the Guardianship Office, which can authorize adoption only if it is in line with the best interest of the child, a general provision repeated specifically for the case of step child adoption by a cohabiting partner. The reluctance of political forces to specifically address second parent adoption by same sex couples thus transfers the decision on gay adoptions to the Guardianship Office and ultimately to the court system. The new legislation will enter into force on May 1, 2010, however, conservative parties expected to win elections next spring promised to keep the new legislation from entering into force.