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Dublin: 5 °C Thursday 14 November, 2019
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Column: 'We're worried our son will become an orphan due to our lack of rights'

LGBT couple, Gabriela and Kelly Socol, are fighting for parental rights and equality for their family.

Kelly & Gabriela Socol

WHEN IRELAND VOTED overwhelmingly for the marriage equality referendum, we thought that when we have children everything is going to be equal. We were wrong. 

On Monday, Minister for Health Simon Harris signed regulations for the Children and Family Relationships Act. These will allow both names of some LGBTQ+ couples on their children’s birth certificate from May 2020.

He said that it was a really important day and received a lot of good publicity but we are still excluded and unequal in the eyes of the law.

This Act covers same-sex couples who use a non-anonymous donor through an Irish clinic. We tried this and in spite of a lot of different treatments and approaches, it wasn’t successful.

  • (Read more here on how you can support a major Noteworthy project delving into how same-sex couples and other parents are still in legal limbo with their children.)

After handing over a house deposit to fertility clinics, we decided for home insemination. Again, we tried this through the clinic at almost €1,000 a go for donor sperm. Again, this failed. 

After an expensive and traumatic few years, our friend decided to help us and donate sperm. We were delighted that after two attempts, Gabriela became pregnant and our son Luca was born. 

No legal rights

Despite having a personal will in place about the guardianship of our son, Kelly, his non-biological mother, has no rights either now or under the new Act, and cannot apply for guardianship until Luca is two years old. This is because we used a known donor and didn’t go through a clinic. We feel both angry and very worried about this.

It’s frustrating as we have Irish friends in England and Canada who are in the same situation as us but they have full parental rights. Why can’t Ireland just copy their laws? 

We’re scared because if anything happened to Gabriela, Luca would be an orphan and go into the system because Kelly is legally nothing to him. There’s no legally acceptable document showing that Luca has two parents that care for him.

It’s not just about names on a birth certificate, it affects day-to-day living. If Kelly is looking after our son and he needs to be hospitalised or undergo a procedure, she can’t give her consent. Luca legally has a single parent and this has to be stated for documents such as passport applications, even though it’s clearly a lie as we are married. 

Still fighting for equality

They don’t question a man and women who register a child’s birth certificate. They presume the man is the father without any verification or tests. Yet, the Government is forcing women like us to attend fertility clinics and undergo procedures that they don’t need – and which the HSE do not fund – in order to be legal parents of our children. 

This Act doesn’t just leave us out. It excludes people who conceive through reciprocal IVF and surrogacy. It also affects gay men and transgender people. We are fighting so that everyone will be included before this Act commences. 

Marriage equality means that we are equal in that we can get married and avail of the tax benefits, but in terms of children we are not equal compared to heterosexual couples. I don’t think the Government thought about our children when it held the referendum.

That’s why we, along with a number of other LGBTQ+ parents, set up Equality for Children. For children like Luca whose security and future is threatened by lack of legislation. We protested at the Department of Health on Monday and will keep doing so until all families are equal in Ireland.

Parental Rights Investigation

Do you want to know more about how same-sex couples and other parents are still in legal limbo with their own children?

The Noteworthy team wants to do an in-depth investigation into how many same-sex couples and so-called ‘non-traditional families’ still face discrimination when it comes to their rights as parents.

They also want to dig into who has been trying to exert influence over the process, and whether this has had an impact on the introduction of new regulations.

Here’s how to help support this proposal>  

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Kelly & Gabriela Socol

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