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Unfinished Business

The last decade has been an incredible journey for our little nation. We have come so far when it comes to equality, with one of the biggest events happening halfway through the last decade - Marriage Equality being won in 2015.

It was an overwhelming ‘Yes’! The people of Ireland made it known that we are a country who believe in fairness and equality. And most people believe that is what we achieved. Sadly that’s not the full story. We were granted marriage equality, but when it comes to children and families, we are still in the same situation as we always have been - treated differently and unprotected by the law. The situation for same-sex couples, as it stands, is this - if you choose to start a family with your spouse, you are back to being treated as nothing more than glorified roommates.

On one hand you will be viewed as a married couple, but any children born to you will only have one of you recognised as a parent. Because of current laws, it’s only possible for one parent in an LGBT+ family to be regarded as a legal parent. Second parent adoption in cases where the child has been conceived through Assisted Human Reproduction is not an option and so, most of our children are in a legal limbo. They have been left in a situation where they are vulnerable and do not have the full protection of both of their parents.

There has been a lot of talk in recent months about new legislation that is coming in for LGBT+ families. Changes in the Children and Family Relationships Act (2015) due to come into effect on May 5 were purported to be bringing in a level of protection for our children. But it’s only going to bring equality to those who meet a strict criteria. In order to qualify, you must be a female who has had fertility treatment in an Irish clinic with an identifiable donor. Any children conceived must also be born in the State. You will then be eligible to put your spouse or cohabitant on the birth cert, making them a co-parent. This will mainly apply to female same-sex couples, but in some cases may also apply to females with trans male partners or spouses.

Everyone else is left out of the legislation - this includes those who have performed an at-home insemination, have had treatment abroad, children born outside of Ireland, have Reciprocal IVF or have children through surrogacy. It’s important to note the complete lack of protection for children of gay dads. In basic terms, if you fall outside of the criteria, you will be penalised and your children will not have a legal connection to one of their parents.

Audrey and got married in 2016 and we have two beautiful daughters Ava (3) and Arya (1). Our children will be excluded because they were conceived through Reciprocal IVF. am married, yet am viewed as a single parent. Because gave birth to them, am viewed as their parent. My wife, who is their biological mother, is classed as a stranger to them.

In the wake of Marriage Equality, had been blissfully unaware of the situation that LGBT+ families were in. assumed, along with most of the nation, that because of the referendum, equality would also extend to our children. It was only when was heavily pregnant with our first child that we realised there was a problem. It was a terrifying realisation. To know that despite having conceived and brought a child into the world with my spouse, would be the sole legal parent and guardian. And shockingly, almost four years later, we are in the exact same predicament.

As soon as Ava was born, began emailing and writing to members of our government, trying to get clarification and help. always received vague replies about the new legislation that was coming in. So, in May of last year, started a petition calling on Minister Simon Harris to look at the discrimination our children were facing and to do something about it. I’d had enough of sitting around waiting for it to happen. The response was overwhelming, with the majority of supporters absolutely shocked to learn that our children were in this predicament. Hours after that petition hit the 20,000 signatures mark, had a personal email from Minister Harris agreeing to meet. It goes to show that there is power in numbers! The meeting was scheduled for October.

In early October, we organised an LGBT+ family meet-up. This was something new that we were doing, as a way of connecting families in our community. It was a cold Sunday morning and there were about 30 or so parents and kids. We never could have imagined what ended up happening - it turned into a sort of call to action (to the sounds of our kids shouting and playing of course.) As a group, we decided there and then that we’d had enough of waiting around and being patient- and we decided to take action.

Within 24 hours, Equality For Children was born. It was exactly two weeks before the meeting with Minister Harris, so amongst ourselves, we took the opportunity to mobilise, organising a launch and demonstration to coincide with that meeting. A huge number of people came together in an incredible show of support, and subsequent meetings were very productive in opening up a line of communication between the policy makers and our families, a communication which had been nonexistent in the past. We hope to continue this relationship and to be involved in the development of new laws that will be effective and appropriate for all families.

Roughly half of all children of LGBT+ families will not be covered by the Children and Family Relationships Act. Even after May 5, these children will have no legal connection to one of their parents, simply because they do not meet the criteria because of how or where they were conceived or born.

Here are two families affected:

BRENDAN & GAVIN

Brendan and his husband Gavin have two beautiful children through surrogacy. Their children were born in the USA, a country which allows the couple to be on the birth cert. They are named as Parent 1 and Parent 2. However due to current laws, Ireland refuses to recognise these birth certs, and as a result one of their parents is considered a legal stranger to them. There is legislation in the pipeline to recognise and allow for surrogacy, however the legislators are only planning to consider domestic surrogacy, this means that if the surrogacy did not occur in Ireland, they will refuse to recognise it. So Brendan and Gavin’s children will continue to be left behind.

KELLY & GABRIELA

Kelly and her wife Gabriela have a young son. Despite repeated treatment at a fertility clinic, Gabriela did not fall pregnant. It was an extremely difficult time for them financially, physically and emotionally. Finally, they decided to try an at-home insemination with the help of a known donor. It worked and they were thrilled to welcome their son into their family. Sadly, because they used a known donor and also because it was done at home, they are excluded from the CFRA. Their son will continue to only have a legal connection to one of them and there is no legislation planned which will cover their situation.

With Equality For Children, there is no doubt in my mind that by working together, we will achieve equality and finish what Marriage Equality started. We plan to lobby politicians, educate and inform the public, support LGBT+ families and impact change through essential legislation. We will not stop until every child of an LGBT+ family is legally protected and treated as equal by the Irish State.

We need to come together as a community to right the wrongs that our children are facing.

You can show your support by volunteering with us, attending our fundraisers, sharing our stories on social media and visiting our website- where you’ll learn how you can get in touch with your local politicians and demand real change.

If you’d like to get in touch to help or volunteer, please email us at events@equalityforchildren.ie.

This article appears in the 362 Issue of GCN

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This article appears in the 362 Issue of GCN