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07/11/2018 12:00:00 AM


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O'Sullivan, Maureen

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Bills

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Children and Family Relationships (Amendment) Bill 2018

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Second Stage

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Children and Family Relationships (Amendment) Bill 2018\Second Stage
Bills\Children and Family Relationships (Amendment) Bill 2018\Second Stage

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B2

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Children and Family Relationships (Amendment) Bill 2018

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Second Stage

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Senator


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Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan

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Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan

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Maureen O'Sullivan

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Snippet Contents:

At the heart of the legislation is an acknowledgement of the changing nature of families in Ireland today. The norm was a female mother, male father and X number of children but that is no longer the case and it is positive that this Bill acknowledges it. However, I agree with Deputy Joan Collins about the confusion that existed.
It is when we come into contact with people in different, non-traditional family groups that we become aware of the serious difficulties they face when registering their children and their status as parents. Passports is another area. For example, I know two women who married a couple of years ago and had a child this year. Their dilemma was that the Children and Family Relationships Act had not been fully commenced so one of the couple would be a legal stranger to that child. They had been overjoyed about marriage equality and that their relationship was legally recognised as equal and valid. Then they had the joy of their child but that is somewhat on hold now. They want to register their child and both parents of the child but without the legislation being commenced, the child would be registered as the child of a single parent, which is not the case.
I acknowledge the work that is being done to address the issues, including the briefing given by the Department of Health and the Minister's engagement with the LGBTQ community. At least with the commencement of Parts 2 and 3 same-sex female couples can apply to the courts to declare parentage but it will not allow for the de-registering and re-registering of a birth certificate to have the parents' names on the birth certificate. Part 9 has to be commenced for that to happen, and that is under the remit of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. Same-sex male couples will have to wait for the assisted human reproduction Bill. There are LGBT couples who have or will have children and those parents and children should have the same rights as the biological children of heterosexual couples. A heterosexual couple can use a sperm donor and nobody need know. There are good examples from Canada, as I know personally from friends, of supports for same-sex couples to have children, such as assisted reproduction, surrogacy and sperm donors, and the process of registering the children is straightforward.
Last Saturday's edition of The Irish Times included personal accounts of parents in these situations. A same-sex male married couple had a son through surrogacy in Canada, where they had been living. On the child's Canadian birth certificate both men are listed as his parents but under current Irish family law neither has legal rights over their son. The surrogate mother and her husband would be considered the child's legal parents even though she has no biological connection to the child as a donor egg was used. Of course, it would be a costly process here to go through the courts. There are also some good examples from UK law where the names of the same-sex parents are on the birth certificates. In addition, there was an account of the difficulty of recognising adoptions arising from surrogacy.
It is positive that prior to the same-sex marriage referendum, the Children and Family Relationships Bill was passed to amend Irish family law and extend parental rights to non-traditional families. Marriage equality was a positive start so there is now a need to address the other issues around parentage in the best interests of the children involved. As the Minister said earlier, this is about accepting the reality. However, there is an urgent need to cover the omissions in the legislation.