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A group of children were gathered around Swan Lake in the Botanic Gardens yesterday morning. Watched closely by their parents, they squealed and laughed as they ran along the banks feeding the catfish, swans and occasional turtle. Among them was five-year-old Noel not his real name.
The boy, who is tall for his age, laughed when a food pellet he threw landed on a swan's back. Unlike the other children there, however, Noel has two fathers. Last Monday, one of the Singaporean men got the green light from the courts to adopt Noel.
In a decision that it reached "with not insignificant difficulty", the High Court allowed James to adopt Noel, whom he fathered in the United States through a surrogate mother.
The pathologist had brought the Pennsylvania-born boy to Singapore in , but his bid to adopt him was rejected by a district judge last year. He then appealed. In its judgment grounds, the three-judge court stressed that its decision to reverse the district court's ruling was based on the welfare of the child, and "should not be taken as an endorsement of what the appellant and his partner set out to do". The Ministry of Social and Family Development has since said that gay parents hoping to adopt their biological children may find it harder to argue in court that they are not "deliberately" going against Singapore's stance against same-sex family units.
Shawn, 46, whom the boy calls Daddy, works in the marketing industry and will be whipping up dishes such as oxtail stew and nasi ulam for the extended family this festive season. James, also 46, whom Noel calls Papa, says: "We are so relieved - it's going to be a good holiday. Their mood is a far cry from this time last year, when they found out on Boxing Day that James' application to adopt Noel had been rejected. They were preparing to go to Bangkok to let Noel visit a local safari, but the news " put a dampener" on the vacation, James recalls.