Elton John will not be able to adopt a 14-month-old Ukrainian child because the pop star is too old and isn't traditionally married, Ukraine's minister for family affairs said Monday.
Adoption and gay rights advocates expressed regret about the determination by Family, Youth and Sports Minister Yuriy Pavlenko, while a children's charity had reservations about John's weekend announcement that he and his male partner, David Furnish, wanted to adopt the boy.
The pop signer toured a hospital for HIV-infected children in eastern Ukraine on Saturday as part of a charity project and said that he and his male partner David Furnish wanted to adopt an HIV-infected boy named Lev.
But the country's Family, Youth and Sports Minister Yuriy Pavlenko told The Associated Press that adoptive parents must be married and Ukraine does not recognize homosexual unions as marriage.
John and Furnish, his longtime partner, tied the knot in 2005 in one of the first legalized civil unions in the United Kingdom.
Pavlenko also said John was too old. The singer is 62 and Ukrainian law requires a parent to be no more than 45 years older than an adopted child.
"Foreign citizens who are single have no right to adopt children ... and the age difference between the adopter and the child cannot be more than 45 years," Pavlenko said. "The law is the same for everybody: for a president, for a minister, for Elton John."
John gave Lev a big kiss at the orphanage in Makiyivka.
"I don't know how we do that, but he has stolen my heart. And he has stolen David's heart and it would be wonderful if we can have a home," John said.
Pavlenko said Ukraine was grateful for the singer's charity work and expressed hope that his desire to adopt Lev would spur the domestic adoption of more children with health problems, which is still rare in Ukraine.
Pavlenko said domestic adoptions have increased significantly thanks to government childcare supplements and maternity leave for adoptive families. In 2004, Ukrainian families adopted about 1,500 children compared with 2,500 adoptions by foreigners. This year, 2,500 orphans were adopted locally while 1,000 found homes abroad.
However, Ukrainians are still reluctant to adopt ill, psychologically challenged children or those older than 10. Pavlenko said that only about 30 HIV-positive children have been adopted since 2007. About 32,000 Ukrainian orphans are waiting to be adopted this year, but only 2,000 Ukrainian families are lined to adopt them.
Albert Pavlov, head of the Happy Child foundation for orphaned and sick children in Zaporizhia, said he opposed adoption by gays, but called for removing age and marriage restrictions for adopters.
"I don't understand why a middle-aged single woman, if she is in good health, cannot raise a child," Pavlov said.
Svyatoslav Sheremet, head of Ukraine's Gay Forum, a leading gay rights organization in Ukraine, said the regulations were depriving the boy of a chance to find a family and love.
"If I were that child, I would feel very bitter and sad," Sheremet said.
Yukie Mokuo, UNICEF representative in Ukraine, said that foreign adoptions should be encouraged when no local families can be found.
A spokesman for the charity Save The Children UK, Adrian Lovett, said "while we're sure Elton John is acting with the best intentions, his comments risk sending out a dangerous message about international adoption."
"Most orphans in institutions, including in Ukraine, have one or both parents still living or have an extended family that could care for them with the right support."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.