Laws preventing same-sex couples from adopting are “discriminatory” and make “little sense” Alan Shatter, the justice minister, has said.
Extending adoption rights to gay couples is expected to be dealt with in a second piece of legislation on the issue of parentage to go through the Dáil before a referendum is held on same- sex marriage.
The Government has already committed to passing legislation dealing with guardianship and parenting and custody in the Family Relationships and Children Bill to be published by Christmas.
However, the Cabinet is also considering a second piece of legislation that would extend adoption rights to civil partners who cannot jointly adopt under current law.
Mr Shatter and Frances Fitzgerald, the children’s minister, have discussed whether this should be dealt with through a newly drafted bill or by way of an amendment to the Adoption Act 2010, which would be included in the Family Relationships Bill.
No decision has yet been made, but Mr Shatter hopes that dealing with the issue of adoption through the Oireachtas will ensure that questions about parentage do not dominate the debate on same sex marriage in the referendum to be held in early 2015.
Since 1952, a single person — regardless of his or her sexual orientation — or a married couple may adopt a child. This has not been extended to cohabiting couples or civil partners. There is “a need for further consideration of the issue”, according to Mr Shatter.
In a briefing document on the Family Relationships Bill, he referred to a ruling by the European Convention of Human Rights that prohibited the discrimination between couples in adoption on the basis of sexual orientation.
“A law which permits the adoption of a child by an individual who is gay but excludes the adoption of a child by a same-sex couple makes little sense and can properly be regarded as discriminatory,” he said.
Speaking on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics yesterday, he said there are a whole range of reforms required to children’s law “which aren’t uniquely relating to the issue of same-sex marriage but which do effect that area”.
He said there was a danger of these getting confused in a referendum on marriage equality but “are issues that have to be addressed, whether or not we have a referendum on gay marriage, whether or not the majority of people support it”.
Mr Shatter said: “We will also be addressing issues that the legislation enacted in 2010, relating to co-habitees and gay partners didn’t address, which was the children of their relationships.”
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