By Sonia Elks
LONDON, Nov 28 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A drive by Croatia to boost the number of foster parents opening their homes to children in need by offering monthly salaries should include LGBT+ couples, according to campaigners and some politicians in the ruling coalition.
The government has introduced a draft bill that would offer salaries of up to 6,500 kuna ($990) a month in an effort to find carers for more than 800 children in homes and institutions across Croatia in 2017, according to government data.
But LGBT+ activists and the gender equality ombudsman said same-sex couple face discrimination because the law on fostering currently makes no mention of those in same-sex civil "life partnerships" which were introduced four years ago.
The gay rights organisation Rainbow Family has called on Croatian politicians to include gay couples in the final text of the act and show that Croatia is treating its citizens equally with reports of same gay couples blocked from fostering.
"The (government's) main goal is to find more highly educated, young foster parents in urban areas," Daniel Martinovic of LGBT+ group Rainbow Families Croatia, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a telephone interview.
"But when it's a same sex couple that fulfils all the criteria, they get rejected."
A spokesman for Croatia's Ministry of Demographics, Family, Youth and Social Policy was not available for comment.
Croatia's law on fostering says single people, married couples and unmarried couples are all allowed to foster, but it does not make any specific mention of 'life partnerships'.
Campaigners have argued the bill should be amended to stipulate that LGBT+ people have an equal right to foster.
They have won the support of junior coalition partner, the Croatian People's Party (HNS), which has tabled amendments.
"Although the new fostering law brings many improvements, we believe there are still opportunities for improvement in terms of giving the ability to civil partners and informal civil partners to foster," a HNS spokesman said in an email statement.
The ombudswoman for gender equality, Visnja Ljubicic, also backed calls for change in a statement, saying the exclusion of life partners denied them equal status and was not in line with the principle of gender equality.
She added the number of new foster parents has been in decline for years, with most aged over 55 and many without higher education.
Martinovic and other LGBT+ activists said same-sex couples in civil partnerships had been blocked from fostering.
One couple in a life partnership, who asked only be identified by their first names Ivo and Mladen, said they had passed all initial assessments only to be suddenly rejected.
"We got an official reply from the centre saying we were denied because we were in a civil partnership – so basically we were rejected due to our orientation," said Ivo.
($1 = 6.5647 kuna) (Reporting by Sonia Elks @soniaelks; Editing by Belinda Goldsmith Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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