Further rights for same-sex parents in pipeline

Enhanced parental rights for same-sex couples could be only months away after a government department and the HSE confirmed it was dependent on the roll-out of training to registrars.

Various laws came into place following the marriage equality referendum three years ago, but some provisions linked to parental rights have still not been enacted — among them parts of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015.

One of those would allow for the equal parental rights of the non-birth mother in cases where a married lesbian couple have a child. As things stand, only the birth mother can be registered as a parent, while her spouse can only apply for guardianship after a two-year period.

The situation was revealed two years ago in the Irish Examiner by NUIG lecturer in Family and Child Law and LGBT activist Brian Tobin, who reiterated his call for the laws to be updated.

At a time when the Irish people are being asked to trust politicians when it comes to legislating on another significant social issue, it is staggering to learn that the bulk of a piece of legislation placed on the statute book prior to the Marriage Equality Referendum in 2015 has still not been commenced and, over three years later, same-sex married couples still do not have equal legal parental rights when compared with heterosexual married couples,” said Dr Tobin.

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection is responsible for Part 9 of the Act, which amends the Civil Registration Act 2004 to enable the registration of the birth of a donor-conceived child and the recognition of parents, whether heterosexual or same-sex.

A department spokesperson said: “Provision has since been made for registering details of ‘parent’ in section 99 [in Part 9] of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 ]which amends Parts 1 and 2 of the First Schedule of the Civil Registration Act 2004, as amended], in the case of a donor-assisted birth.

“These provisions have yet to be commenced pending the roll-out of training to staff of the Civil Registration Service who are employees of the HSE. The General Register Office is in a position to begin provision of training as soon as the HSE notifies it of the dates and venues.

“It is not possible to register a second female parent under the father’s details, as the father of a child has to be a male. It will be possible to register a second female parent once section 99 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 has been commenced. The General Register office has issued such guidelines to the Civil Registration Service staff in the HSE.

It is intended to commence the relevant sections of Part 9 of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 once Civil Registration Service staff in the HSE are fully trained and ready to implement the provisions of the legislation.

The HSE said: “The provision of training on the new regulations for Civil Registration Services is planned to take place in the coming months. There are no budget issues preventing this.”

Other sections of the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 yet to be enacted fall under the remit of other departments, such as Parts 2 and 3 which makes provisions in relation to the registration of births of children born as a result of donor-assisted human reproduction procedures and which is the responsibility of the Department of Health.

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