KIEV, Ukraine – Elton John won't be able to adopt a 14-month-old HIV-positive child from Ukraine because the pop star is too old and isn't married, the government 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.
John announced his desire after meeting the boy, named Lev, while touring an orphanage Saturday as part of an anti-AIDS charity project.
"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.
But Pavlenko told The Associated Press that the adoption will not happen because adoptive parents must be married and because the pop star is too old.
The singer is 62 and Ukrainian law requires a parent to be no more than 45 years older than an adopted child.
John and Furnish tied the knot in 2005 in one of the first legalized civil unions in Britain, but Pavlenko said Ukraine does not recognize gays unions as marriage.
"Elton John will not be able to adopt a Ukrainian child and if he files that request we will unfortunately deny it," Pavlenko said. "The law is the same for everybody: for a president, for a minister, for Elton John."
John spokesman Gary Farrow declined to comment.
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 that while he was sure John was acting "with the best intentions," he said his move risked "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," he said in a statement.
Associated Press Writer Raphael G. Satter in London contributed to this report.