Four years ago, Peter Conti donated sperm to lesbian friends. He was promised a role in the upbringing of the child, but those promises were never met.

"/> Four years ago, Peter Conti donated sperm to lesbian friends. He was promised a role in the upbringing of the child, but those promises were never met.

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Gay sperm donor frozen out by lesbian mums

Four years ago, Peter Conti donated sperm to lesbian friends. He was promised a role in the upbringing of the child, but those promises were never met.

Peter Conti, the name given the anonymous Tages Anzeiger interviewee, had known the lesbian couple for several years before they asked him for a sperm donation. He knew the pair desperately wanted a child and that they had made several requests to other men who had all turned them down.

Conti’s homosexual partner had never wanted children and it had never been an issue between them. In any event, at that time, adoption for homosexual couples was not possible, and it had therefore never been up for discussion.

Conti saw the women’s request as an “opportunity to accompany a child growing up”, a prospect that he relished. The women had promised him regular access to the child and so he had consented.

But even as the pregnancy was starting to develop, Conti could feel the tide turning. Although he was “suspicious”, he put the resistance down to the emotions of a pregnant woman.

Conti now thinks the women had presumed he would not want to be actively involved in the child’s life. The more interest he showed, the more the women, particularly the child’s non-biological mother, pulled back.

Following the birth of his son, Conti found the situation increasingly difficult, particularly because he had not anticipated quite the strength of emotion he experienced at being a father. The moment of his son’s birth, he said, “turned a switch in [his] head”.

Conti struggled with having to give up his paternal rights, although he knew that it was important for him to keep a certain distance in order for the child to develop its place in the mother-mother-child relationship.

After the imposition of an increasingly strict regime, with a decreasing frequency of visits, Conti finally introduced a lawyer into the equation, which helped secure him better arrangements.

Nevertheless, the relationship had broken down so much that after 15 stressful visits, and although he dearly wanted to see his son, Conti has decided he has to stay away. In a few years, Conti hopes the child will choose himself to have his father in his life.

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Gays win limited support for adopting kids

The lower house of parliament has voted to allow gays in Switzerland to adopt children, but in very limited circumstances, passing the sensitive issue back to the Senate.

With 113 votes in favour and 64 against, the 200-seat house on Thursday opted to allow gays to adopt any biological or adopted children that their partner had before the start of their relationship.

The lower house, or National Council, thus tiptoed in the footsteps of the senate, or State Council, which adopted a far broader measure in March.

Switzerland's largest party, the populist right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP), had called on the lower house to reject Thursday's motion, insisting children should have a
mother and a father.

"If we accept this Senate motion today, we are opening a Pandora's box," warned SVP's Oskar Freysinger ahead of the vote.

The motion was "radical and goes against nature," agreed Christian Luescher of the Free Democratic Party, which was split down the middle on the issue.

"Nature wants a child to have a father and a mother, not two fathers or two mothers," he insisted.

Other critics in parliament meanwhile said that the change did not go far enough and criticised the chamber for not passing the same motion voted through the upper house of parliament.

That version allowed adoption for all adults, regardless of their lifestyles or marital status.

Socialist Carlos Sommaruga, who voted in favour of Thursday's motion, meanwhile described it as a "first small step" to help children already living with same-sex parents.

He stressed that the current law, which explicitly bans adoption by homosexuals in registered partnerships but not by single gays, was "incoherent" and "leads to distortions and absurd situations."

Cathy Ecoffoy, the co-president of the Swiss association Rainbow Families, also stressed the irony of the current law.

"If you have a God-daughter, for instance, who loses her parents, you are not allowed to adopt her because you are in a partnership," she told AFP.

Although Ecoffoy would have preferred the March motion, she welcomed Thursday's vote as a step in the right direction.

"We enthusiastically hail this vote because it takes into account the reality for children . . . who until now have been raised in an unjust way," she said.

She pointed out that children already living with same-sex couples have no legal rights in relation to their non-biological parent, with for instance no guarantees they can continue living with that person if the biological parent were to die.

Any law change on this issue meanwhile cannot be expected for quite a while.

Thursday's vote means the upper house will now need to vote on the narrower motion and if approved, the government will be asked to draw up a proposal
that will be resubmitted to a new parliamentary vote.

In light of the sensitive nature of the issue, observers say opponents might very well manage to gather the 100,000 signatures needed for it to be put to a national referendum.

Switzerland has since 2005 allowed homosexuals to enter into legally binding registered partnerships, but that law explicitly banned gays in partnerships from adopting.