A Swiss court has recognized two men as the legal fathers of their child born to an American surrogate, despite Switzerland’s ban on surrogacy, in a historic first.
The couple, who have a registered partnership, arranged the surrogacy in California—where it is legal—with a woman who lives there. The child, whose gender is not known, was conceived via artificial insemination, using sperm from one of the fathers and a donor egg.
Both fathers are listed on the child’s birth certificate as the legal parents, because California law recognized that the surrogate and her own husband had signed their parental rights to the child over to the fathers. Despite this, in Switzerland the surrogate and her husband would usually still be considered the legal parents.
In order to register the child as theirs on Switzerland’s national register of births, the fathers petitioned Swiss authorities. They received support from the Department of Home Affairs in St. Gallen, the region of northeast Switzerland they are originally from, but the Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) filed an appeal to their petition, which obliged the St. Gallen administrative court to make a decision in the case.
The court then ruled that the main priority in the case was the welfare of the child, and decided in favor of recognizing the California birth certificate.
According to swissinfo.ch, the couple’s attorney, Karin Hochl, told press “The administrative court recognized the American judgment [in this case].”
The court did partially uphold the FOJ’s objection, ruling that the child’s biological connections should be noted on the Swiss birth certificate, but the two fathers remain listed as the legal parents.
The FOJ has not stated whether it plans to appeal the decision to the Switzerland Federal Court.
Swiss laws are generally considered LGBT-friendly, and in 2007 legal recognition for same-sex couples was introduced in the form of registered partnerships, which provide nearly all of the rights and protections of marriage. However, same-sex couples are still banned from adopting children, and only married heterosexual couples are allowed access to fertility treatments such as IVF.
In 2013, the Swiss Parliament granted registered partners the right to adopt their partner’s children. If the new legislation is not blocked by a referendum, it is expected to come into effect in 2016.