I was in a discussion the some weeks ago with a good friend, who happens to be straight, on the subject of the recent ‘homophobia’ controversy surrounding RTÉ, Rory O’Neill, some journalists and The Iona Institute. It struck me there might be some benefit in clarifying one thing regarding the issue of equality, as opposed to homophobia.

Both my partner Alan and I, as gay men, can individually apply to adopt or foster children. But if Alan and I were civil partners, we could not apply to adopt. So, in effect, Irish law, as it stands, discriminates against gay couples only, as opposed to gay individuals.

My friend wanted to know what’s stopping gay people adopting a child and rearing it as a couple? The short answer is there’s nothing stopping us, but that child would have legal rights to only one of us.

Meanwhile there are many children being reared in perfectly normal family environments by gay couples, but only one half of the couple is legally recognised as the child’s parent. In the matters of sickness, education, separation and death, the law is completely at odds with what is likely to be in the best interests of the child, in that it cannot look to one of its parents for security. The non-parent partner has absolutely no legal standing.

There are indeed some couples where, after getting married, one of the couple underwent gender reassignment, so technically they are now in a same-sex marriage, but the law neither recognises this, nor condemns it. As far as the law is concerned their status became frozen in time, when they both said ‘I do’.

You can be female, black, a Traveller, a Muslim or a Jew, and experience prejudice on a daily basis. But in the eyes of Irish law, as long as you are heterosexual you and your families have full equality. As it stands, when it comes to marriage and forming families, gay couples are the only unit of civil society in this country that are second class citizens under the eyes of the law,

The issue at hand is not about allowing gay couples to marry. It is about giving gay couples the same right to choose whether or not they want to marry and/or raise families. The Government has promised to address the situation around gay couples adopting, in Children and Families legislation in advance of the referendum on same-sex marriage next year. Until this bill is passed in full, and marriage equality is achieved, the law is an ass.


This blog post first appeared in GCN / January 2014

© David Wilkins – January 2014

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