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Elton John Hopes To Adopt Baby Boy From Ukraine

Sir Elton John plays a song for children at an orphanage in Makiyivka.
(RFE/RL) -- While visiting an orphanage outside Donetsk, Ukraine, for his AIDS charity foundation, Elton John has announced that he wants to adopt a 14-month-old boy there.

But adopting the boy from Ukraine may prove to be legally complicated for John and his partner in a same-sex union, 42-year-old David Furnish.

Whatever the outcome of the case, John's celebrity status is sure to fuel international debate -- not just about same-sex partnerships, but also about the rights of same-sex couples to jointly adopt children and transport them across international borders.

John and Furnish had been visiting Ukraine for AIDS charity work because Ukraine has one of the fastest-rising infection rates in Europe for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

On September 12, John had just finished performing for children at the orphanage in Makiyivka -- some of whose parents had died of AIDS -- when he told journalists that a toddler there named Lev had "stolen" their hearts.

David Furnish holds 14-month-old Lev at the orphanage in Makiyivka.
"I can honestly say this boy in the front has stolen our hearts, and we will try the most we can to give him a future and a home -- always remembering, of course, that he is from Ukraine," John said.

Legal Issues

But the real issue for John and Furnish is whether Ukrainian officials can allow the adoption of a boy by two foreign men who are in a civil partnership under British law.

"I don't know what the procedure is to adopt a boy from Ukraine. I don't think I can, because England doesn't have a treaty with Ukraine [on this issue]," John said.

"But David is Canadian, so we might be able to work through something like that."

John and Furnish were among 700 gay couples who joined together in a civil partnership on December 22, 2005 -- the first day that same-sex unions were allowed in England and Wales under U.K. law.

The United Kingdom's civil-partnership law granted new rights to couples in areas such as employment, pension, taxes, and inheritance.

Meanwhile, under the United Kingdom's Adoption and Children Act, same-sex couples in the United Kingdom -- including civil partners -- are allowed to apply to adopt a child jointly.

But even in the United Kingdom, same-sex partnerships are not officially regarded as "marriages." And laws in many other countries around the world require that couples be legally married in order to jointly adopt a child.

When asked whether he and Furnish had ever considered adopting a child, John said the two had talked about the idea in the past. He said Furnish had always wanted to adopt children.

But John says he had previously refused because he is 62 years old and had thought his life as a traveling musician and celebrity would not be fair for a child. He says he changed his mind when he saw the 14-month-old Lev in the orphanage in Makiyivka, 30 kilometers northeast of Donetsk.

In his four-decade musical career, Sir Elton John has sold more than 200 million records, making him one of the most popular musical artists of modern times.

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