'Parental rights are not equal for all same-sex couples'

Theresa and Yvonne have equal parental rights for their two children, but some same-sex couples are not so lucky
'Parental rights are not equal for all same-sex couples'

Isaac, Yvonne, Theresa and Darcy pictured on October 12, 2020, as they celebrate receiving parental recognition in Midleton District court.

Theresa and Yvonne Nolan met in 2010. Three years later they entered a civil partnership, and in 2015 they married while Yvonne was pregnant on their first child.

Whilst their process of IVF was long and sometimes turbulent, overall they felt “nothing but support from everyone”.

However, their experience opened their eyes to other same-sex couples having children and how it’s not always as easy as it should be.

The pair underwent IVF with Waterstone — a fertility clinic in Cork. Given Theresa’s struggle to get pregnant, Yvonne was going to be the biological mother of both they’re children, Darcy and Isaac.

But for the parents, it wasn’t going to be as easy as one might expect it to be. It was going to take a letter from the clinic to say their child was born through a certain method and Yvonne placing her hand over the bible in a court of law for Theresa to be granted parental rights of their children.

“I couldn’t just go to the front desk like a Dad usually does and get the birth certificate. Yvonne had to take a pledge. It was such an emotional time for us," said Theresa. 

"I would often think to myself ‘if something happened to Yvonne what would happen with our children’ and that fear is constant until you know you have those rights,” added Theresa.

Even though Theresa and Yvonne would describe their experience as “better than what others have to go through,” they had to wait five years for Theresa to get parental rights for her children.

After the marriage referendum in May 2015, there was a natural assumption that all aspects around equality for LGBTQI+ people and their families were taken care of and were equal to same-sex couples, but five years later, Part 2 and Part 3 of the Children and Family Relationships Act were still anticipating commencement in May 2020.

During that time, many families struggled with convoluted legal frameworks, the courts system, and rights for parents in families who are not biologically connected to their children, like Theresa, even though the Civil Registration Act of 2019 provided a framework for the registration of a same-sex female couple as parents of a child born through donor conception.

This means that SOME same-sex female couples can be registered on their child’s birth certificates.

However, many families are still not covered by this Act, including two male parents, people who have had home inseminations, used a known donor, reciprocal IVF, as well as those who have used surrogacy or were treated abroad.

But some may not have an option but to travel abroad, leaving them in a situation of uncertainty. In simpler terms, the rights of same-sex couples depends on how their child was conceived.

“It’s the affordability aspect that will force a lot of couples to travel abroad, and that isn’t covered under the legislation, it has to be in a clinic in the state. IVF is also very expensive which automatically eliminates people who can’t afford it,” said Yvonne.

The drawbacks aren’t just in legislation, but also in the granular aspects of society such as documents, forms, and policies.

“We find that, in our experience, our local schools have been very supportive, however the language in forms may not be.” For Theresa and Yvonne, making the decision to carry out their IVF within Ireland stood to them massively, even though there was still a rigmarole involved in the process.

“Although the judge wished us the very best of luck, I was shaking having to take the stand, I felt so nervous,” said Yvonne.

“The legislation that was passed was rushed and the wording should have been straightened out. There’s a lot of work still to be done. A lot of families don’t have what we have. We’re lucky that our case fits within the limits.

“There are plenty more parents who are still campaigning for the rights of their children and there are more parents who don’t have parental rights than those who do. It’s a pity good things can sometimes take a long come through,” said Theresa.

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