Pride 2020: Society moves on, now laws must follow

Gearóid Kenny says people are very welcoming to same-sex couples, but laws need to evolve. He talks to Áilín Quinlan
Pride 2020: Society moves on,  now laws must follow
Seamus Moore and Gearóid Kenny outside Birmingham City Hospital, England, where twins Seán and Mary were born in 2018.

Gearóid Kenny is the proud father of bouncing 20-month-old twins - but bizarrely, under Irish law, in the event of an accident, he has no right to seek hospital treatment for his little son Sean.

Gearóid and his husband Seamus Moore - the couple married in 2016 - had their twins with the help of an old friend living in the UK, who acted as a surrogate mother.

Following their birth to their surrogate mum, Amara, in a Birmingham hospital in 2018, new-borns, Mary and Seán, were brought back to Ireland by their proud parents.

However, Irish law has forced the couple and their children into a difficult situation.

“Under Irish law, the surrogate’s name appears on the birth certificate as their legal mother, along with the name of the biological father,”says Gearóid, who gave up a well-paid job as an IT sales executive to become a full-time parent at the family home in Balrothery in north county Dublin.

“This means that the other partner has no legal right to the children, which is frightening from the child’s perspective.”

Now, along with Seamus, a marketing executive, he is actively campaigning for the law to be changed through the group the couple helped establish, Equality for Children: “For us it is not an issue of me or my husband enhancing our rights, but it is an issue from the child’s perspective, because if anything happens to the child in terms of an accident, the “non-recognised” partner cannot even bring the child to hospital.

“I am the biological father of Mary, and Seamus is the biological father of our son Sean, even though the children are twins.

“Our daughter is biologically related to me. However, if our son has an accident I have no right to bring him to hospital for any medical treatment,” he said.

When it was time for their children to be vaccinated, they had to go separately. Gearóid had to bring Mary, because his name is on her birth cert as her father, while Seamus had to bring Sean, because Seamus’ name was on Sean’s birth certificate as his father.

“I wouldn’t have the right, for example, to bring Sean abroad with me for the weekend,” Gearóid explains.

“When the twins go to a crèche, for example, Seamus will have to give me a note authorising me to collect Sean every day.” When their children reach the age of two, he says, the couple will start a legal process where they can each get guardianship of the other’s biological child.

“Basically what we want to see is birth certificates amended to ensure that the names of the two people who are going to raise the child appear on the document!

“It is up to the government to work out how to do that,” he observes, adding that many jurisdictions now allow for the names of both intended parents to be on the birth certificate rather than that of the surrogate mother and biological father.

“The situation is that our surrogate, Amara, now has a legal responsibility that came with being named as the children’s mother; however she does not feel that she is their mother. “Yet, if I died, my biological daughter Mary would be left to the care of Amara - or else be legally an orphan. That’s as raw as it gets.

“This is not about the rights of the LGBT community. It is about the rights of children.” Along with a group of other LGBT parents, Gearóid and Seamus helped establish the advocacy group Equality for Children, which has met with the Minister for Health on a number of occasions to discuss the issue.

“This legal situation affects heterosexual couples as well, and many Irish mothers are in much the same positions as I am,” he explains, adding, however, that he hugely enjoys day-to-day parenthood.

“I gave up a well-paid job to become a full-time parent. I love every minute of life! I have been very proactive about joining toddler groups and going to play centres and meeting friends for walks,” he says, adding however, that he plans to return to the workplace when the twins start school, though on a part-time or local basis.

The couple find that people are hugely supportive.

“I’m from Tipperary and I wondered when we first visited with the kids what the neighbours would think!

“What we found was that everyone stops to talk to me and meet the kids, and when we visited the first time with the babies, the family house was thronged with visitors bearing gifts.”

It’s equally friendly in the Dublin housing estate where the couple live.

“We do stand out a bit as two men pushing a buggy! Loads of people come up and chat with us, and it has been a very positive experience.

“People just want to talk about the kids and about our experience as parents.

“We’re like any other parent in their eyes. We have brought the kids abroad on holiday and we find that Ireland is more progressive and open than anywhere we have been.

“Ireland loves families like us. I think the Marriage Referendum brought these conversations out in public and people were clearly ready for them.”

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