PARIS (AFP) — A French appeals court ordered the government Friday to officially recognize the sole parenthood of a couple who raised twins borne for them by a surrogate, a practice that is illegal in the country.
The twins were born in 2000 to Dominique and Sylvie Mennesson, a French couple who had gone to the United States — where it is legal — for another woman to carry their babies.
Authorities in France had refused to list Sylvie Mennesson as the children's legal mother on their birth certificates, with implications for their nationality and inheritance rights.
Dominique Mennesson was always recognized as the biological father, as he provided the sperm for the pregnancy achieved with donor eggs.
"Our children are no longer ghosts. They are our children, legally speaking," he told journalists outside the Paris court on Friday.
The ruling is the latest in a string of advances for non-traditional families in France.
Six years after adopting a same-sex marriage law that triggered months of protests, the lower house of parliament last week approved a controversial draft law to allow lesbians and single women to conceive children with medical help, including in-vitro fertilization (IVF).
Protests against the move are planned for Sunday, with critics saying it will condemn children to a "fatherless" existence, and eventually lead to the legalisation of surrogacy, including for gay men — a prospect that many conservatives baulk at.
The government has denied plans to lift the surrogacy ban.
On Friday, the country's highest court for civil and criminal matters granted the Mennessons what they had been fighting for nearly two decades: their names on their daughters' birth certificates as sole parents.
They were listed as such on the original birth certificates issued in California, which were then transferred to the French civil register, only to be quashed by the state.
In 2011, a French court ruled the certificates could not legally show the Mennessons as the girls' legal parents.
The couple approached Europe's top rights court, which ruled in 2014 that the French stance ran contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights.
The appeals court ruled Friday that it saw no other way to protect the twins' rights than to make the original birth certificates legally accepted in France.
The ruling was specific to the Mennessons, but their lawyer said it set legal precedent for other families in the same boat.
Most European countries ban surrogacy although the use of surrogate mothers is allowed — as long as they are not paid — in Belgium, Britain and The Netherlands.
© Agence France-Presse
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.