A French official sparked a major row Tuesday by suggesting gay people came lower in the pecking order than heterosexual couples when applying to adopt children.
Pascale Lemare, head of the adoption service in the Seine-Maritime region of Normandy, northern France, said same-sex couples were likely to be left with adoptive children who were ill or otherwise "atypical", prompting outrage from gay rights groups.
"Children that no one wants -- there are people who don't want to adopt children who are too damaged, too psychologically damaged, too big, or handicapped," Lemare said.
She had been asked in an interview with France Bleu local radio if it was more "complicated" for a gay couple to adopt a healthy baby.
"There are parents who correspond better to the required criteria," she replied.
"Not a gay couple, then?" asked the interviewer.
"Well, no," Lemare said, adding that same-sex couples were "a little atypical, you might say, with regard to social norms and biological norms".
She went on: "If their plan includes children with atypical profiles... if homosexual couples have open expectations, they can indeed adopt a child."
France legalised gay marriage and same-sex adoption in 2013 after large demonstrations against the changes by Catholic and conservative groups.
Pascal Martin, head of the Seine-Maritime region, said he "very strongly condemned" Lemare's comments.
"In no case is the sexual orientation of future parents a criteria of evaluation" in the region, he insisted in a statement.
Lemare was not available for comment, her office said.
- 'Scandalised' -
But her comments prompted furious reactions from French gay rights activists.
"We are extremely shocked by these comments," said Alexandre Urwicz, head of the Same-Sex Parents' Association (ADFH), adding that his group had filed a legal complaint.
Geraldine Chambon, a gay rights activist living in Normandy, said she was "scandalised" and similarly considering a lawsuit.
"We had heard things about the region's adoption policy, but it was just rumours," she said.
France Bleu had spoken to three gay couples who complained that Lemare's department discriminated against them when they applied to become parents.
One woman, a 38-year-old who had been with her partner for 10 years, said she met Lemare in 2016 and was told it would be "very difficult for a homosexual couple to see their application approved".
"If we wanted to pursue it, we would have to be prepared to take in a child with specific needs -- an older child or one with health problems. We ultimately abandoned our plan to adopt," she said.
"We weren't very surprised by this kind of talk given that we experience discrimination on a daily basis."
Regional authorities said Martin was waiting for the results of an external audit before considering possible disciplinary action against Lemare.
Gay couples have been able to adopt children in France since 2013