Elton John too old, too gay to adopt child, says Ukraine

The HIV-positive baby boy, Lev, had "stolen [Sir Elton's] heart" when he visited an orphanage as part of an anti-AIDS charity project.

Efrem Lukatsky/AP
Pop singer Elton John visits and performs in an orphanage for HIV-positive children in the town of Makeyevka, outside Donetsk, Ukraine, on Saturday.

First it was legendary pop diva Madonna. Now it's legendary pop singer Elton John.

Celebrities, it seems, just can't catch a break these days ... at least when it comes to adopting children from developing countries.

Sir Elton was prevented from adopting from Ukraine this week.

Why? Well, he's too old, for one thing. Ukrainian law states the age difference between the adopter and the child cannot be more than 45 years. Elton John is 62 years old.

Is that really too old? Haven't grandparents been raising kids since, well, forever? Look around Africa today, the AIDS epidemic has made it a necessity.

But there's also the rule that you have to be married to adopt from Ukraine. The country does not recognize Sir Elton's civil partnership with David Furnish as a marriage.

Is this really about Sir Elton being gay?

Ukrainians haven't exactly been known for their tolerance of homosexuality, and some of the early reaction there bears that out.

Here's a taste from an Agence France-Presse story:

"They are going to destroy this child's life," said Oleg, a 29-year-old serviceman from the area of the orphanage who only gave his first name.

"They will make him camp, just like they are. He is in all likelihood HIV positive, the best thing they could do is leave him to live out the rest of his life in peace."

"He will be seen as a pansy from the start and will become one without doubt," added Igor, a 43-year-old journalist.

But the HIV-positive baby boy, Lev, had "stolen [Sir Elton's] heart" when he visited an orphanage as part of an anti-AIDS charity project.

Ukraine officials were not, however, moved by the singer's compassion.

"Elton John will not be able to adopt … and if he files that request we will unfortunately deny it," said Ukraine's family, youth, and sports minister Yuriy Pavlenko. "Foreign citizens who are single have no right to adopt children … and the age difference between the adopter and the child cannot be more than 45 years. The law is the same for everybody: for a president, for a minister, for Elton John."

Well, um, OK then.

The couple will need Ukraine's president, Viktor Yushchenko, to grant special permission to adopt Lev. Even if the rules are bent to allow for the adoption – as they were in Malawi for Madonna – Sir Elton will also have to adopt Lev's brother. Siblings must be kept together, according to Ukrainian guidelines.

Madonna's adoption kerfuffle

If Elton John is allowed to circumvent the laws to adopt Lev, it will likely generate some controversy.

When Madonna was allowed to adopt her baby boy from Malawi in 2007 within days of meeting him – in contravention of a law requiring would-be adoptive parents to reside in Malawi for 18 months before adopting – it ignited a firestorm in the small southern African country and beyond.

Wouldn't a child born into poverty in Malawi have a better life, better opportunities raised by a wealthy individual in London? Perhaps. But it's more complicated than this.

And, as the Monitor reported, this public debate has complicated Madonna's attempt this year to adopt a young Malawian girl. She lost that bid, but has appealed the decision.

Save the Children UK - one of the Western groups that voiced the most concern about Madonna's Malawi adoption – has expressed its misgivings about Sir Elton's bid.

"[Celebrity adoptions] can exacerbate the problem by encouraging parents to abandon children in the hope of giving them a better life." spokesman Adrian Lovett said in a statement. "Most orphans in institutions, including in Ukraine, have one or both parents still living, or have an extended family that could care for them with the right support."

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