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Children and Family Relationships (Amendment) Bill 2018: Second Stage (Continued)

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 971 No. 6

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Louise O'Reilly: Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly] It was many years ago and much has changed in this State since then. I found it incredibly difficult to find a garda who would stamp the form because my husband and I were not then married. I knew who my child's father was but it was difficult. It felt disrespectful to my family that we did not fit in and were treated like a square peg in a round hole. That is well over 20 years ago and I am happy that circumstances have changed. However, I have received extensive correspondence from same-sex couples. All they seek is what I sought then, namely recognition for our little family unit, however it is constituted. I can understand their concerns and the fact that what is on that piece of paper is important. Although people tell them that they know they are a family, having that piece of paper is important.

The LGBTI community have fought hard for this legislation. They should not have had to fight for it; it should have been forthcoming from the State. At the recent Pride parade, I saw an interesting banner that said, "You only gave us rights because we gave you riots". There is some truth in that. People have had to fight hard for basic recognition. That was wrong but it is good that we have begun the process of putting that right.

Members of the LGBTI community continue to fight for their rights. With that in mind, I cannot let the opportunity pass without commenting on some of the disappointing aspects of this Bill and what it fails to do. The State has a long history of failing the LGBTI community and even with the progressive and positive moves in recent times, that cannot be forgotten. It is concerning that the State is leaving a number of same-sex couples behind and that this legislation will not cover them. Male same-sex couples will be left behind and will not be covered by this legislation as will some female same-sex couples who did not choose home insemination or others who chose fertility treatments abroad and for those who chose to go the route of surrogacy, particularly in the case of male same-sex relationships.

I cannot overstate the concern and disappointment of the many families who have contacted me because they believe this legislation will not help their situation. These families are tired of having to constantly fight for their rights and they want a normal life. Like any family, they want to register the births of their children with both parents on the documentation.

The Minister and the Government will bring forward two different Bills to address the outstanding issues relating to the Child and Family Relationships Act. They need to speak to the stakeholders, listen to their concerns and they must be guided by what they tell them. Some of the sections of the Child and Family Relationships Act that have not been implemented need the implementation of the assisted human reproduction Bill 2017 to become law. I urge that this Bill come back before the health committee for another round of pre-legislative scrutiny as soon as possible.

I am happy that this legislation covers some same-sex couples but we have a job to do to ensure that the message of inclusivity that we are trying to send out is made a reality for the families who so desperately need it.

Deputy Denise Mitchell: Information on Denise Mitchell Zoom on Denise Mitchell While I welcome this Bill, it is ridiculous that three years after marriage equality was endorsed by the people in a referendum, many families are not seen as equal in the eyes of the State. Over the past year, I have repeatedly raised this issue in the House under Questions on Promised Legislation and through written parliamentary questions. Time and again, we were given deadlines that were not met and we were brushed off. Many same-sex families have rightly grown very angry at the Government's failure to sort this out. Therefore it is good to finally have something concrete before us.

This Bill will benefit many LGBTI couples by giving them the opportunity to register both parents on a birth certificate and to avail of equal parental rights, as enjoyed by other families. This ensures legal protection on issues such as guardianship and inheritance rights. However, we cannot ignore the fact that this Bill does not go far enough. Male same-sex couples will be largely left behind along with many female same-sex couples, including those who conceived through home insemination.

In recent weeks, many families who are very upset have contacted me. They understandably thought they would be included in this Bill.

I welcome the Minister of State's comment that these issues will be addressed at a later stage. We cannot leave people behind. The children of these families know exactly who their parents are. They do not need the Government to tell them that. However, what they do need is for this State to recognise their family in law and to treat them equally. I welcome the Bill but it does not go far enough and we cannot leave any more families behind.

Deputy Paul Murphy: Information on Paul Murphy Zoom on Paul Murphy I will share my time with Deputy Bríd Smith. I welcome the Bill. It is very late but I welcome it on behalf of the LGBTQ+ parents who will have their rights as parents acknowledged and those of their children as a consequence. Serious questions need to be answered about why this legislation has taken three years. I can accept that technical mistakes can happen and so on, but for a long time when we asked questions on this, we were told that there was a problem with one thing or another and the Government was looking at how to resolve them and so on. Eventually, the Government had to return to the House with amending legislation. That should not have happened three years later, but immediately after the problem was recognised.

  It is clear this has happened because the community began to mobilise on the issue. Important meetings took place. "We are Family" was the theme of this year's Pride parade and political pressure was bearing down on the Government whereby they could not stand over the situation any longer. It is a movement of people forcing the Government to act on the issue.

  I also want to point out the inadequacies of this Bill. I acknowledge that they are rooted in the legislation that was passed three years ago, rather than being inadequacies of this particular Bill, but the number of LGBTQ+ parents who are excluded is an issue. Many of them will gather outside the Dáil at lunchtime tomorrow to protest, and I will join them. They support the passing of the Bill but they demand action to ensure that all parents will be treated equally.

  Some of the practical issues have been referred to. I have been in touch with a couple recently, Leeane and Nile. Leeane wrote:

We they had created their baby together, and went through the process every couple does with the intention of creating a human. I willing signed up to love and care for someone for the rest of my life. Is this not what makes a family?

This month, we celebrate gay pride. The theme is "We are Family". How much of a slap in the face is this to all same-sex parents out there. Instead of celebrating our first Pride as a family we will be marching and protesting for our rights again.   

I wish I could tell Leeane that after the passing of this legislation, her family will be fully recognised, but unfortunately they will not because they had a home insemination. This is not a situation of a known donor; the donor is traceable and attended a clinic outside the jurisdiction, so unfortunately they will not be covered by this legislation.

  The point has been made that those who availed of surrogacy, which in the vast majority of cases is men, are not covered.

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