Starting a family was never easy for lesbian couples in Hungary, but nowadays the government seems even more determined to obstruct us. Even so, the situation is not hopeless, it is worth taking a look at what options we have.
Legislation concerning having and raising children is very discriminative and strict in this country. There are two major legal questions here:
- Should it be made easier for same-sex couples to have children (by making artificial insemination and adoption more accessible for gay and lesbian people) or,
- Should it be made possible for both parties in a couple raising a child to be considered legal parents of the child.
The current Hungarian legislation is hostile in both cases, but day-to-day experience shows an upwards trend in the number of gay and lesbian couples raising children. Even though it is not possible for a child to have two legal parents of the same sex, the registered partner of the legal parent is registered as a step parent, and a cohabiting partner as a caregiver. Most legislation accepts the step parent or caregiver as a family member or next-of-kin of the child.
Here we shall summarise the main points of legislation regarding raising children:
Current Hungarian law accepts two forms of adoption: individual, and joint. This was what changed the most in the last couple of months – and not in the right direction.
What was the situation before the 27th of February 2021?
Joint adoption was not permitted for same-gender couples in the past either, but all suitable individuals were entitled to adopt on their own regardless of sexual orientation or marital status, meaning that even a person living in a registered partnership or registered cohabitation could adopt as an individual. It’s important to note, that keeping the adopter’s sexual orientation, partnership or living conditions was never needed or even allowed. The same-gender partner was also allowed to take part in the official preparation course.
Just as before, the current law prioritises married couples in the adoption process, so individual adoptions in the case of same-gender couples were rare, though it did happen a couple of times over the last few years.
In February the government shut off the adoption ‘loophole’ of same-gender couples, all individual adoptions must be authorised by Family Affairs Minister NOVÁK Katalin. The reason behind the change is not much of a secret, applying couples should not expect favourable treatment.
Adoption legislation cannot even be worked around by adopting abroad: international adoptions are subject to the so-called Hague convention, which states that adoption abroad is only possible if it is found to be in accordance with Hungarian law and Hungarian authorities permit it.
Since in the case of healthy women artificial insemination is an extremely easy process it can theoretically be performed home using a syringe. But performing such at-home treatment counts as an illegal use of the human body, and as such a felony (the sperm-donor is not held accountable).
Another important risk is that no matter if the father is registered on the birth certificate or not, the sperm donor can at any point file for acknowledgement of paternity and demand visitation rights. The father cannot legally renounce this right, his parental rights can always be ‘revived’.
Artificial insemination in healthcare facilities is subject to strict (and to same-gender couples heavily discriminatory) regulations. According to healthcare law, only married couples, different-sex cohabiting couples, infertile women and women who are expected to become infertile soon due to their age may take part in the procedure. Lesbians in cohabitation or a registered partnership, or women capable of natural conception may not.
There is a much better chance for application for artificial insemination abroad: in many countries the relevant regulations are much more liberal than in Hungary, which means the treatment is available for lesbian couples and single women too, regardless of infertility. In our next series we will take a closer look at the details of this option.