New laws on adoption rights for same-sex couples set for year end

New laws on family structures, including adoption rights for same-sex couples, are on track to be in place later this year, according to the Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.

She is examining a report by a cross-party committee which is recommending final tweaks to the legislation, including the removal of jail terms for parents in breach of the planned laws.

Following submissions from more than 32 stakeholders including equality campaigners, children’s rights groups and family lawyers, as well as hearings from these parties in April, the Oireachtas Justice Committee published the report yesterday.

Among its key recommendation is that children should be given the right to full knowledge of their genetic parents in a move that would outlaw anonymous sperm donation.

It suggests a dual birth certificate system which would contain details of the “social parents” and the genetic lineage of a child. Experts said this is important for a child’s sense of identity, as well as their right to access medical information.

The report says locations that have prohibited anonymous donation and established systems to assist donor-conceived people to identify genetic parents include: England, Wales, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland and some Australian states.

Under current law, only married couples or individuals can adopt a child. The draft heads of the bill propose that same-sex couples who enter civil partnerships should be allowed to adopt.

The Family Relationships Bill aims to deal with the question of parenting rights for gay couples ahead of a referendum on marriage equality planned for next spring.

The Justice Committee recommends this provision be extended to allow same sex couples who are married, or have adopted abroad, have their parenting rights recognised here. The report also recommends the bill:

- Give stronger rights for children to identify genetic parents;

- Allow “posthumous conception” or the eggs or sperm of a deceased person to be used in limited circumstances;

- Drop proposed jail penalties for parents who breach the proposed ban on surrogacy for commercial reasons.

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