Sir Elton John and his partner, David Furnish welcomed their son Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John on December 25, 2010. The birth of their child is significant for multiple reasons in the social acceptance and understanding of surrogacy, adoption and family formation.
Attempting Adoption from Ukraine
Last fall, the couple visited an orphanage in the Ukraine and planned to adopt a 14-month-old boy named Lev and his HIV-positive brother Artyom. After visiting the orphanage, John told reporters that “Having seen Lev today, I would love to adopt him. I don’t know how we can do that but he has stolen my heart. And he has stolen David’s heart and it would be wonderful if we can have a home [together]”.
Although the public has seen many celebrities adopt babies from all over the world, seemingly with ease and sans red tape, celebrities, just like everyone else, are bound by the laws in various countries and must abide by strict regulations.
After John announced his desire to adopt Lev and Artyom, Youth and Sports Minister Yuriy Pavlenko said that the adoption could not happen because adoptive parents must be married and because John is too old.
The singer is 62 and Ukranian law requires a parent to be no more than 45 years older than an adopted child. In 2005, John and Furnish formalized their relationship in one of the first legalized civil unions in Britain, but Pavlenko said Ukraine does not recognize gay unions as marriage.
Gay Rights in Ukraine
After John and Furnish were denied the ability to adopt Lev and Artyom from Ukraine, Svyatoslav Sheremet, head of Ukraine’s Gay Forum, a leading gay rights organization in Ukriane, said the regulations were depriving the boy of a chance to find a family and love.
Overall, Ukraine is a conservative, mainly Orthodox Christian, country. Households headed by same-sex couples in Ukraine are not eligible for the same legal protections available to opposite-sex couples.
In a December 2007 survey by Angus Reid Global Monitor, 81.3% of Ukrainians polled said that homosexual relations were “never acceptable”, 13% answered “sometimes acceptable” and 5.7% “acceptable”.
Despite reported heartbreak from their failed attempt at adoption in Ukraine, John and Furnish welcomed a baby boy via a surrogate this week into their family. Their son, named Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John, was born on Christmas day, and weighed 7 pounds and 15 ounces.
Although John and Furnish will not provide any details about their surrogacy arrangement and intend to protect and respect the privacy of the surrogate mother, their quest for a family has engaged the media and helped educate the public about adoption, surrogacy, gay rights and family formation.