Thursday, April 17, 2008

Lesbian couple with child a family, Irish High Court rules

Ireland's High Court has ruled that a lesbian couple living together in a long-term committed relationship with a child can be regarded as a de facto family enjoying rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, says this report in The Irish Times.

The ruling, I suspect, will have wider implications than are inherent in the case itself. For instance, how will it affect the position of same-sex couples, whether gay or lesbian, who have children, in relation to tax, social welfare and employment benefits? I expect this will be working its way through the system for the next few years

The court denied guardianship and access rights to the child's biological father who had donated sperm to the mother, says the Irish Times report.

Mr Justice Hedigan said there was nothing in Irish law to suggest that a family of two women and a child "has any lesser right to be recognised as a de facto family than a family composed of a man and a woman unmarried to each other".

He said the rights of a man who acted as a sperm donor were at least no greater than those of an unmarried father. In considering his application for guardianship the child's welfare was the paramount consideration, the Irish Times report says.

He believed there existed such personal ties between the couple and the child as to give rise to family rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights which do not conflict with Irish law.

For more details, see this report in The Irish Independent.

And here is the rest of it.

1 comment:

Padraig O'Morain said...

I'm adding this by way of a comment to save time in a busy day. Alan Shatter, Fine Gael's spokesman on children, has called for legislation in the wake of the High Court decision to answer the following questions (not that the Government will do anything at all about it):

· How should our law regard a contract between a donor of eggs or sperm and the person who gives birth to a child and their partner, if any?
· What parental rights, if any, should the donor of sperm or an egg
(ova) be entitled to exercise?
· How should our law regard a surrogacy contract and what rights, if any, should vest in a surrogate mother?
· What rights should vest in a child born as a result of sperm or egg donation in respect of the donor as a biological parent or with regard to maintenance support or inheritance?
· What records should be maintained to facilitate such a child in the future to establish their origins or to access information about the medical history of the donor?
· How should the law differentiate in its approach when addressing guardianship, custody or access disputes in respect of donors and parents as between a donor who has an existing relationship with a child so born and one who merely seeks one?
· What principles should the courts apply when considering the rights of the child in circumstances such as these and how should it apply the ‘child welfare’ principle?