The Irish Justice Minister, Alan Shatter TD, is expected to publish the heads of a new Children and Family Relations Bill next month, which will provide parental rights for many same-sex couples in the Republic.
The Department of Justice published a briefing note on the Family Relationships and Children Bill 2013 which aims “to create a legal structure to underpin diverse parenting situations and to provide legal clarity on parental rights and duties in diverse family forms”.
Currently, Irish law allows heterosexual couples or single persons – irrespective of sexual orientation – to apply to adopt, but same-sex couples cannot jointly adopt. Many other aspects of Irish family law were written during the mid-20th Century, and as such, have left modern methods of establishing a family in a grey area, such as surrogacy, adoption, and assisted human reproduction. The proposed legislation is expected to address these issues, while also providing for guardianship and parental rights for gay and lesbian couples with children.
The Irish Times reported this morning:
The new laws will provide a long-anticipated legal basis for surrogacy and assisted human reproduction in Ireland, allowing intended parents to be legally recognised as parents, even if they have no genetic link to the child. It will also modernise areas like guardianship and access for unmarried parents and civil partners, and will allow children to refuse consent for custody or access.
Kieran Rose of GLEN warmly welcomed the announcement by the Department of Justice, seeing the move as recognition by the Government of the diversity of families in Ireland today:
“There are lesbian and gay couples all over Ireland who are bringing up children. These families urgently need legal recognition and protection – the protections and certainty that other families take for granted. The lack of State recognition and protection for these families carries significant consequences for their children.”
Speaking to the media, Minister Shatter has claimed that the draft legislation has the “full backing” of both Fine Gael and the Labour Party, and has evoked “minimal excitement”, while acknowledging that certain areas of the legislation may be regarded as controversial to some conservative and religious groups.