A gay couple fought for three long years for their right to become parents. Now, they’re Croatia’s first same-sex foster carers

In a first for Croatia, a gay couple have adopted a child following a tense legal battle. (STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images)

After a topsy-turvy legal battle that has stretched three years, a gay couple has become the first same-sex couple to foster a child in Croatia, activists said Monday (September 4).

Ivo Šegota, a molecular biologist, and Mladen Kožić, a sociologist, launched a legal bid to challenge a law banning same-sex couples from fostering after a 2017 application was rejected. This is despite the pair being registered life partners which grants them comparable rights to mixed-sex couples.

After their initial application to foster a child in 2017 was swiftly rejected, the couple have been ping-ponged around social welfare centres, social policy ministry and the courts – their lives dominated by assessments, rejections, appeals and rulings – in their effort to start a family.

But finally, their plight has borne results.

According to Rainbow Families, one of Croatia’s top LGBT+ lobbying groups, the couple were victorious and two children were homed with Segota and Koxic a few weeks ago.

This followed a constitutional court verdict earlier this year which stated everyone should have equal opportunities to foster children, irrespective of their family status, paving the way for Šegota and Kožić to adopt.

“Our members Ivo and Mladen are very happy with new members of their household,” said Daniel Martinovic, head of Rainbow Families, according to Barrons reported.

“This gives us hope that things in our country can still change,” Martinovic said, pledging to fight for “full marital and family equality”.

“There is no child for whom would be better to spend his childhood in a home for orphans than with the support of adults, including of two men.”

Croatia’s densely anti-LGBT+ laws have steadily thawed in recent years, in what activists say signals increasingly more moderate attitudes towards queer rights.

Progress has been slow, in part because of the influence the Catholic Church on the country. A small cadre of powerful religious leaders have sought to restrict legislation on fostering and adoption for LGBT+ people – almost always succeeding.

A foster care act introduced in December 2018 effectively banned same-sex couples from fostering.

LGBT+ rights organisations were left incensed after the Croatian parliament ignored the calls of more than 200 psychologists and sociologists calling for fostering rights to be extended to queer people, with Šegota and Kožić penning an open letter to the Croatian government at the time arguing that such a law “further boosted stigma and gave it a legal framework.”