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Two European Courts Protect Same-Sex Couples' Adoption Rights

Germany's high court and the European Court of Human Rights both issued rulings Tuesday striking down adoption laws that discriminate against same-sex couples.

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Two European courts ruled Tuesday that same-sex couples must be treated the same as opposite-sex couples when adopting a child.

The rulings came in cases from Austria and Germany, two countries where same-sex couples can enter into kinds of civil unions but cannot marry.

The European Court of Human Rights held that Austria violated international law by denying a lesbian woman the right to become a second parent to her partner's child.

The court, which found this past year that there is no right to same-sex marriage under the European Convention on Human Rights, limited the scope of its ruling by saying that countries still have the right to ban all unmarried couples from two-parent adoptions. But it said governments that allow unmarried heterosexual couples to adopt cannot discriminate against same-sex couples seeking to adopt as well.

In a news release, the court explained that "the [Austrian] Government had failed to give convincing reasons to show that excluding second parent adoption in a same-sex couple, while allowing that possibility in an unmarried different sex couple, was necessary for the protection of the family in the traditional sense or for the protection of the interests of the child. The distinction was therefore discriminatory."

Germany's top court followed similar logic when it ruled that a lesbian had the right to become a second parent to a child her partner had adopted from Bulgaria. However, the Associated Press reports that it stopped short of giving same-sex couples in registered partnerships the right that married couples have to adopt children as a couple; each partner much separately adopt a child to establish joint parental rights.

J. Lester Feder is a BuzzFeed contributor and a 2013 Alicia Patterson journalism fellow.