Marriage Equality’s submission to
Seanad Public Consultation Committee
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
21 March 2014
Contact details:
Moninne Griffith (Co- Director)
Marriage Equality
9 – 13 Blackhall Place
Dublin 7
Introduction and Background to Marriage Equality
Marriage Equality is a not for profit, single issue, national grassroots advocacy organisation
whose goal is to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in
Ireland through the extension of civil marriage rights to same-sex couples.
Marriage Equality's vision is of a fairer more inclusive Ireland in which same sex couples,
their families and their children enjoy equality.
In order to realise our vision, Marriage Equality's mission is to achieve equal access to civil
marriage for same sex couples in Ireland.
In order to accomplish our mission, Marriage Equality has three key aims 1.
to educate the general public, the legal community, opinion makers and legislators
about the need for equal rights for same sex couples
to mobilise support for legislation that will enable same sex couples to marry and
establish legal recognition of children in LGBT families
to monitor and encourage legal actions at national and European levels which
support the granting to same sex couples the equality of status in Ireland that they
already enjoy in a number of other European Union member states and globally
It’s important to stress that we are seeking access to civil marriage. Civil marriage is
regulated by the State. Wedding ceremonies take place in a registry office or approved
venue. This has nothing to do with religious marriage or getting married in a church. We are
not seeking to force religious institutions to marry same sex couples. Just as divorce
legislation did not force churches to remarry divorced people, legalising marriage equality
will not require churches to marry same sex couples – though several religious institutions
(Unitarian Church, Quakers, etc) would be happy to do so.
Marriage Equality has been funded to date by community and grassroots fundraising and by
philanthropic organisations such as Atlantic Philanthropies and The Community Foundation
for Ireland. It is managed by a voluntary Board of Management and staffed by two
employees and a team of volunteers.
Marriage Equality welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the Seanad Consultation
Committee’s (SCC) consideration of Ireland’s international human rights obligations
regarding Ireland’s upcoming Fourth Periodic Examination under the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in July 2014. Marriage Equality would like to take this
opportunity to focus on the issue of the lack of access to civil marriage for same sex couples
in Ireland and the consequent lack of rights, inequality and discrimination face by same sex
couples, families and their children.
The State Report highlights the progress made on equality for same-sex couples through the
introduction of the civil partnership legislation.1 Although these developments are welcome,
the legal framework in relation to civil partnership does not provide equality for same-sex
relationships and families under the law, particularly with respect to children.2
The State Report indicates that issues relating to same-sex couples parenting children
together will be considered in the context of a planned Family Law Bill (now the recently
published General Scheme of the Child and Family Relationships Bill).3 Under existing Irish
law, children of same-sex couples cannot establish a joint legal connection to both parents.
This means that the child is denied any rights in respect of her/his non biological parent
including custody, access, maintenance, guardianship or inheritance rights. This includes a
situation even where her/his biological parent is in a civil partnership with the other parent
and where he/she would otherwise have rights in respect of a parent in a marital family
access to financial maintenance from their non-biological parent if the parents’
relationship breaks down, (even if that person had taken on responsibility for all
financial support);
the right to claim inheritance from their non-biological parent;
the right to protections that apply to the shared family home;
adoption of the child by the biological parent’s civil partner.
It should be noted that legislation providing greater protection for children of same-sex
couples will fall short of affording such children the opportunity to be part of the only
constitutionally recognised type of family in Ireland, i.e. the family based on marriage.4 Only
access to civil marriage for families like these will provide the opportunity to become a legally
recognized and protected family.
In April 2013, the Convention on the Constitution recommended that provision be made for
a referendum to provide for same-sex marriage and equivalent protections, including
“parentage, guardianship and upbringing of children in families headed by same-sex married
parents”. 5 In November 2013, the Government accepted the recommendation of the
Ireland’s Fourth Periodic Report under ICCPR to the UN Human Rights Committee, op cit, para 698-702. See Civil
Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010. Available at: (accessed 8/8/2013).
To view the differences between civil partnership and civil marriage, see Marriage Equality’s Missing Pieces
Ireland’s Fourth Periodic Report under ICCPR to the UN Human Rights Committee, op cit, para702.
In the recent case of McD. v. L, the Supreme Court ruled that a lesbian couple and their child were not a family
under the Constitution. The court acknowledged the loving and caring environment in which the child was being
raised but stated that, for constitutional purposes, a family that is not based on marriage is not recognised under
the Constitution (McD. V. L [2007] IESC 81).
Third Report of the Convention on the Constitution Amending the Constitution to provide for same sex marriage, (June 2013), page 4, available at
(accessed on 6/8/2013).
Convention and committed to holding a referendum of marriage equality by mid-2015 at the
The Seanad Consultations Committee should consider asking the Government to provide
details, including a timeframe, of when the Child and Family Relationships Bill 2013,
governing issues of parenting in relation to same-sex couples, will be brought before the
Oireachtas for enactment and to what extent issues of the rights of children growing up
with lesbian and gay parents will be protected in line with the State’s obligations under the
The Seanad Consultation Committee should consider asking the Government when it
intends to hold a referendum to on the issue of marriage equality for same-sex couples as
recommended by the Convention on the Constitution.