Rights of Children 'ignored in bill'

12 Feb 2009

Non-biological parents would have no obligation to children, say groups

By: Juno McEnroe

A glaring gap exists in the Government's proposed Civil Partnership Bill as it ignores the rights of children or partners, lawyers and civil rights campaigners have claimed.

Family lawyers warned that a major flaw in the planned law - which will grant same-sex couples civil marriage - was that a non-biological parent would have no obligations or rights in respect of a child.

Addressing the gap in the proposed bill would be a litmus test of the Government's commitment to equality, said director Mark Kelly with the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL).

"The overriding concern is the position of children isn't properly addressed. There's an element of pretence that families involving same-sex couples do not include children. The reality in Ireland is that there are many children already living with same-sex couples.

"And to reform the law in this area to give a greater measure of equality without addressing the situation of children is a major lacuna."

TDs gathered in Leinster House yesterday as lawyers addressed concerns about the bill, which the Government have committed to passing in the current Dáil session.

Head of Law at the Dublin Institute of Technology, Dr. Fergus Ryan, said the partnership scheme was a "groundbreaking" development in the treatment of unmarried couples, essentially giving the same rights as married couples.

Partners could seek financial support, legal protection on the death of a partner, barring orders as well as prevent a partner selling a shared home without written consent, under the planned legislation. The bill provides for the dissolution of the partnership, in a similar way to divorce.

However, lawyers pointed out the benefit of a court or judicial separation was not provided under the bill. Dr. Ryan also said it failed to address the rights of children: "While this issues is complex, the proposed legislation makes no effort to address the legal position of children in respect of the partners and the responsibilities of the latter."

His concern was backed by a leading family solicitor, Muriel Walls. She said the bill remained silent on the position of children. It contained 129 heads but did not mention the word child or family. The legislation also did not stress the value of reconciliation among civil partners, it was added.

Barrister Brian Barrington said the proposed legislation was the main comparable to similar civil partnership laws passed in England and Wales.

However, under the planned Irish law there would remain the situation where a single gay person could adopt a child but a gay couple could not, he said.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice last night said the heads of the proposed bill were "well advanced".


Article taken from the Irish Examiner.