Lesbians appeal over “invalid” marriage

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A lesbian couple in Ireland lodged an appeal yesterday with the country’s Supreme Court to dispute a High Court ruling that their marriage is not valid.

This is the most recent development in the battle for Drs. Anne Louise Gilligan and Kathernine Zappone to have their Canadian marriage recognised.

The couple believe that the refusal of this recognition, and the failure of the Revenue Commissioners to allow them the tax provision of heterosexual married partners, is a violation of their human rights.

In a statement, Dr Zappone and Dr Gilligan said: “We believe that it is in our interest and in the public interest to have this issue clarified in the highest court of the land.”

Last December the couple’s challenge in the High Court was dismissed by Ms. Justice Dunne, who rejected the argument that the term “marriage” can be applied to same-sex relationships.

Dr. Zappone and Dr. Gilligan also make the case that the refusal to recognise their marriage is against the Irish Constitution.

Article 41 of the constitution says that:

“The State pledges itself to guard with special care the institution of marriage, on which the family is founded, and to protect it against attack.”

It does not give any definition of marriage itself, and thus does not outlaw gay marriage.

Legislation to legalise same-sex unions in the Republic of Ireland was defeated in the country’s parliament on Wednesday.

The Irish government said that the bill proposed by the Labour party would not comply with the constitution, but said that they would introduce their own legislation later this year.

Justice Minister Michael McDowell reaffirmed that the state is constitutionally required to uphold the institution of marriage.

Mr McDowell promised that the government would be bringing forward legislation to protect the rights of all unmarried couples, gay or straight.

Dr Zappone and Dr Gilligan argue that the Irish Constitution, enacted in 1937, needs to be updated.

The couple’s also point out that in 2006 the Irish Equality Authority recommended that, due the requirements of the Belfast Agreement, the Irish government is legally obliged to recognise civil partnerships, as these have been legal in Northern Ireland since December 2005.

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