New Bill Works to Right the Wrongs of Previous Legislation

Today, Tuesday, 23rd January, LGBTQ families and advocacy groups gathered outside Leinster House to welcome the Private Members Bill that will be brought to the Dáil on Thursday by the Labour Party leader Ivana Bacik.

The Bill, which was produced in conjunction with LGBT Ireland and Equality for Children, closes the gaps in family law to ensure all children born to same-sex female couples are treated equally under the law.

Ranae von Meding on behalf of Equality for Children, said: “We are delighted to see Labour bringing forward this Bill on behalf of the existing and future children of same-sex female couples in Ireland. These children have been left behind for far too long. We are grateful to Labour for taking up their cause and fighting for their right to equality. If passed, this Bill would make a huge difference to the families we represent, 50% of whom are not covered by existing legislation. We’re calling on the Government to respond to the family law proposals put forward in this Bill as a matter of urgency.”

Pádraig Rice from LGBT Ireland said: “The clear message from the LGBTQ community to the Government is that we want our families treated fairly and equally under the law. As part of that, the gaps in the law must be closed to allow all children of same-sex couples to have a full legal relationship with both parents. Children of LGBTQ+ people must be treated equally. They must be afforded the same rights as other children – nothing less, nothing more. The Government’s Assisted Human Reproduction Bill, which is currently at Committee Stage in the Dáil, would have been the ideal vehicle to address the lacuna in the law. Unfortunately, the Government’s Bill as it currently stands doesn’t fully deal with these issues. This is a shame and a missed opportunity to fix this issue once and for all. Families shouldn’t have to wait any longer. The equality the people voted for in the Marriage Equality Referendum in 2015 won’t be fully realised until this issue is solved.”

Speaking today in advance of the Private Members Bill being debated in Dáil, Labour Party leader Ivana Bacik said: “All parents worry about safeguarding the future of their children. That is without added concerns about guardianship, parentage, inheritance, and even the legal status of a child. These issues are simple to address, but the consequences of a failure to address them are enormous for families. The changes proposed by this bill will provide security and comfort that families currently do not have.

“The marriage equality referendum vote was about more than just the right to marry. The will of the people was clear; they wanted LGBTQ+ people and LGBTQ+ relationships treated equally by the State. We all agree that the best interests of children must be paramount in all matters relating to family law. Labour’s Bill aims to address the gaps that currently exist in the law and provide equality for all families.”

What the Bill Does:
The Children and Family Relationships (Amendment) Bill offers a process whereby an application can be made to the Court where all the substantive policy aims of the current legislation can be met.

This change in process would mean that, where intending parents have gone through screening, confirmed the consent of those involved and registered identifying information in respect of the donor, they could be granted their declaration of parentage by the Court. The Bill closes several gaps created by the original legislation, particularly where children have been born abroad, conceived abroad, conceived outside of a clinical setting or conceived using a known donor prior to 4th May 2020.

The Bill also introduces the paramountcy principle to ensure that, in all court applications under the Children and Family Relationships Amendment Bill, the best interests of the child is the paramount consideration. It also introduces a presumption of maternity to offer true equality to children of both opposite and same-sex couples.

Finally, it rights the wrong in previous legislation of the exclusion of the use of known donors from retrospective declarations of parentage, which was based on a faulty legal premise that parentage could only be transferred if the genetic father was unknown.

Other background information:
The former Special Rapporteur for Child Protection, Professor Conor O’ Mahony, in his 2020 report, A Review of Children’s Rights and Best Interests in the Context of Donor-Assisted Human Reproduction and Surrogacy and Irish Law, said that the current framework has had a negative impact on children’s rights to non-discrimination and to recognition of family relationships. This Bill would address this issue.

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