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'If something happens to me, my wife would have no rights to her own daughter': Families criticise government for law delay

Under the current system labels of ‘Mother’ and ‘Father’ exist on birth certificates.

Families protest outside Leinster House today.
Families protest outside Leinster House today.

SAME-SEX COUPLES gathered outside the Dáil today to voice their anger at the long delays in introducing legislation that would allow for legal parental recognition of their children.

Under the current system labels of ‘Mother’ and ‘Father’ exist on birth certificates.

Birth certificates issued in respect of donor-assisted children born to same-sex couples currently only allow for the recording of the mother’s details.

Families said they have been waiting four years for the government to enact the Children and Family Relationship Act 2015 and the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill 2017.

However, both pieces of legislation are still with government. 

Last week, Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty said the changes needed to resolve a number of difficulties in the registration of donor assisted births will be brought forward as a priority.

Equal rights

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Elaine, mother of baby Kate, said her family have been waiting a lot more than four years for equal rights.

“Kate’s other mother Jenny is a legal stranger to her. She looks after her, she gets up for her at night, she was there right from the start, but in the government’s eyes she is a legal stranger,” she said. 

She said the recognition isn’t the important thing for her, but it is the practical things that are of concern.

“If something were to happen to me, my wife would have no rights to her own daughter,” she said, adding that other practical problems include taking their daughter to the doctor for vaccinations, picking their child up from school.

“She legally can’t do those things, and she has no rights to her own child. We are still waiting,” she said, accusing the government of  “spinning” about changing the law.

“They are saying ‘we have fixed it now’ and they haven’t, all they are doing is messing it up, making mistakes and delaying, delaying, delaying,” she said, adding that it needs to be enacted.

“It is sad that we have a gay Taoiseach and Minister for Children – surely this is the time that our rights should be promoted and they are still not doing it.”

IMG_3510 Dil Wickremasinghe and her son Phoenix.

Journalist, Dil Wickremasinghe, who was also outside Leinster House today, said these changes had been announced before the marriage equality referendum. 

In practice for her, if her daughter is taken to hospital, she has no legal rights to give consent for treatment. It is just very unfair,” she said, adding that she is trying to teach her children that “it is love that makes a family”. 

She said her young son asked her why they were there today.

“I had to have the conversation with him that the families who have a mammy and daddy don’t have to do this. They don’t have a birth certificate issue where one person is listed and the other one isn’t. It makes it hard to get the message across to him that there is nothing different about his family, we should be equal. He is getting mixed messages from society.”

Hopes to pass Bill soon

Doherty said under the new law  change approved by government same-sex female couples will be able to use the label ‘parent’ on birth certificates of their children.

The message the minister was giving to families today was that a stand alone Bill, which she hopes to publish next week, will now deal with this issue. 

The minister hopes it can avoid pre-legislative scrutiny and proceed to the Dáil and the Seanad in a couple of weeks. Doherty said it is her understanding that she has cross-party support for the Bill, adding that she will try and get it passed “as quickly as it can”. 

When enacted it will help the women at the protest today, who the minister acknowledged are in “limbo” and give these families the rights that many take for granted.

Doherty said there is no reason why the Bill could not passed speedily, stating that while it is unusual, all stages of the Bill could be heard in one sitting, if opposition parties agree.

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