By Rachel Savage and Seb Starcevic
LONDON, May 6 (Openly) - A Croatian court has ruled that same-sex partners can now adopt children, backing a gay couple in their five-year fight for the right to family life, the government said on Thursday.
Zagreb's Administrative Court ruled on April 21 that same-sex couples should not face discrimination in state adoption, the Rainbow Families Association (RFA), an LGBT+ group, said on its website, alongside a redacted copy of the judgment.
The head of the RFA, which funded the case, voiced excitement at this latest win for minority rights in the small Balkan state.
"I feel really relieved that this odyssey, that lasted so many years, has finally hit (its) conclusion," Daniel Martinovic told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.
He said the couple - Mladen Kozic and Ivo Segota - had only gone public with their victory after consulting the social worker of the two boys they look after, the first children to be fostered by a same-sex couple in Croatia.
The government has 15 days from receiving the judgment to appeal - but emailed a statement saying it would not comment on the ruling "until it becomes non-appealable and final".
Neither the government nor a court official contacted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation would say when that deadline falls.
Croatia has introduced human rights reform since joining the European Union in 2013, but the Catholic-majority country remains relatively conservative, with media reporting Pride flags being burned and attacks on LGBT+ Croatians.
If the ruling stands, it would be the 15th of the EU's 27 member countries to permit same-sex couples to jointly adopt children, according to ILGA-World, an LGBT+ advocacy group.
Croatia legalised same-sex civil partnerships - "life partnerships" - in 2014, after a referendum that enshrined marriage in the constitution as solely between a man and woman.
A 2019 law that aimed to boost the number of foster parents said single people, married couples and unmarried couples could foster, but did not mention those in "life partnerships".
That law was challenged by Kozic, 40, and Segota, 38, both from Zagreb, after their application to adopt was rejected.
They became foster parents in September, caring for boys of seven and five, and their lawyer urged the government to let them adopt now, too.
"There are children which need their attention, their love," Sanja Bezbradica Jelavic said by phone. "Give my clients this right and give the children this right to be in a family they want."
(Reporting by Rachel Savage @rachelmsavage and Seb Starcevic @SebStarcevic; Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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