The applicants have lived together as life partners since 1989. They formalised their relationship with a commitment ceremony, performed by a lay preacher in September 1990. To all intents and purposes they live as a couple married in community of property; immovable property is registered jointly in both their names; they pool their financial resources; they have a joint will in terms of which the surviving partner of the relationship will inherit the other’s share in the joint community; they are beneficiaries of each other’s insurance policies; and they take all major life decisions jointly and on a consensual basis.
In 1994, the applicants approached the authorities of Cotlands Baby Centre, Johannesburg (Cotlands) to be screened as prospective adoptive parents. They went through a standard three-month process which involved their being screened and counselled together by social workers as required by the Child Care Act which sets out the legal framework for adoptions in South Africa. The screening of the applicants included psychological testing, home circumstance visits, extended family recommendations and a panel discussion. It was at all times made clear during the screening process that the adopted children would be moving into a family structured around a permanent lesbian life partnership. The suitability of both applicants to be parents of the adoptive children was considered in the light of these circumstances.
- See section 18(1)(b) of the Child Care Act which states that before granting an adoption order, the children’s court must consider a prescribed report by a social worker. See also Minister of Welfare and Population Development v Fitzpatrick and Others 2000 (3) SA 422 (CC); 2000 (7) BCLR 713 (CC) at para 30.