Connect to share and comment
"I would like to have a mother, but I wouldn't want to lose my two dads," says Frida, a radiant six-year-old Canadian girl unaware of the international controversy raging over gay parenting rights.
A gay couple in their 40s adopted Frida when she just a baby.
Cheerful and vivacious she runs wild in the Montreal home of Laurent Demers and his partner Steven LeBlanc, burning off energy before bedtime under the watchful gaze of her doting fathers.
Britain voted on Tuesday to become the 11th country to allow gay couples to marry -- but the reform divided Prime Minister David Cameron's ruling Conservatives and must go before the upper chamber before becoming law.
In France, where the issue has sparked impassioned protests, that National Assembly approved homosexual marriage and adoption only last month.
Canadian gays and lesbians have been tying the knot since June 2005, when a series of court decisions forced Ottawa to legalize gay nuptials on the basis that denying gay couples the right to marry was discriminatory.
Since 2002 Canada's Quebec province has also allowed gay and lesbian couples to adopt children.
"We were the 16th gay couple to adopt a child in Quebec, and the first to be entrusted with a girl," boasts LeBlanc. Frida came home with the couple when she was only two months old, in December 2006.
Two years later, she got an adopted baby brother, Jules, who was only four days old when he was added to the family.
The adoptions were finalized in short order, in part because the couple were not fussy about who they wanted placed with them to be raised.
"Adoptive parents often want 'pink babies,' newborns, beautiful and healthy. It's narcissistic," says Michel Carignan who as chief of Montreal's adoption services from 2002 to 2009 oversaw the first adoptions by gay couples.
"Gay couples, themselves being different, were open to having children who are different, or of other ethnicities, who are older or with special needs due to psychological or health problems," he explained.
"Because of that, they made faster headway with their applications," he said, adding that he is aware of no evidence that being raised by a gay couple rather than a heterosexual couple has any adverse affect on the child.
Today, one in three couples seeking to adopt in Montreal are gay or lesbian, said Louise Dumais, who succeeded Carignan at Montreal's adoption office.
Gay and lesbian adoptions have not faced strong opposition in Quebec, where it is widely accepted now as a new societal norm.
Most of the couples seeking adoption are gay men.
Lesbian couples have mostly turned to artificial insemination to start a family, and since 2010c the province has paid the bill, said Mona Greenbaum, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Family Coalition.
Her organization has helped 1,300 families.
International adoptions are out of the question. No country allows children to be placed with foreign gay couples, says Greenbaum, who is a mother of two boys thanks to insemination at a US clinic.
Some couples have access to surrogacy, which is banned in Quebec but not in neighboring Ontario, but this option is costly -- with fees of up to Can$75,000 charged by agencies in Ontario -- and legally complicated.
It's not always easier for lesbians. Stephanie Recordon and Florence Lagouarde came to Quebec from France in 2003 in order to have children.
After three years of trying they gave up on artificial insemination and turned to in-vitro fertilization. One of Recordon's eggs was implanted in Lagouarde's uterus.
On February 10, 2011, Lagouarde was stunned by the positive result of a home pregnancy test.
Little Markus was born nine months later. His mothers are now eager to try again for a second child, using this same method.
Every gay and lesbian couple interviewed by AFP described their own unique adventures in parenthood.
But they all had one thing in common: at hospitals, daycares, schools or elsewhere their non-traditional families were treated just the same as any other.
Anna is a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl with two mothers, Charlotte Semblat and Genevieve Guindon, both sociology professors.
Her friends at daycare, the couple says, "accept it as quite normal" although they are sometimes jealous that Anna has both "a mother and a mommy."
What does Anna say when asked why she has no father? "That that's the way it is!" she asserts, before turning her attention to two toy chipmunks. "A heterosexual couple," Semblat says, of the animals.