Ireland: Bid to overturn laws prohibiting gay marriages welcomed

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A new legal challenge has been launched in Ireland to test the country’s legislation which currently prohibits gay marriages from taking place.

Senator Katherine Zappone and Dr Ann Louise Gilligan will issue the new legal challenge as part of their long fight to have their Canadian marriage recognised under Irish law, which is heading to the Supreme Court.

The couple’s bid to have their marriage recognised began in 2004, before Ireland introduced provisions for separate civil partnerships for gay couples, which came into effect at the start of 2011.

Senator Zappone said today: “It became clear to us that, even if we succeeded with our original case, the provisions within the Civil Registration Act and the Civil Partnership Act would remain.

“So it became imperative to shelve our Supreme Court appeal and proceed to challenge this Act before the High Court.”

Among other questions, High Court proceedings will examine whether the Civil Registration Act 2004, which defined marriage as being between a man and a woman, is valid under the constitution’s equality protections. The Civil Partnership Act, which prohibits people who have registered a civil partnership from marrying, will also be examined.

Marriage Equality Director Moninne Griffith said today: “We are happy to hear of Senator Zappone and Dr Gilligan’s decision.

“This new case will focus on the provisions in both Acts which prohibit same sex couples from marrying in Ireland, even if they are legally married in another jurisdiction. Their original case was in the High Court in 2006, and so much has changed in 6 years: Civil Partnership was introduced last year, public support has risen from 56% in 2008 to 73% earlier this year, and the government has committed to looking at the issue of marriage equality in the upcoming Constitutional Convention.”

Ms Griffith added: “We’ve seen important developments overseas as well.

“More countries have allowed same-sex couples to marry, the Oxford English Dictionary now includes same-sex couples in its definition of ‘marriage’, and world leaders including David Cameron, Francois Hollande and Barack Obama have voiced their support for marriage equality.”

Marriage Equality pointed out that its 2011 report “Missing Pieces” found more than 160 differences between the rights afforded by civil partnerships and civil marriages, including issues around immigration, finance and family rights.

Ms Griffith said: “Irish people understand that the issue of marriage equality is about Irish values – equality and protecting our families – the people we love. This year, 73% of people said they believe marriage equality should be enshrined in the Irish Constitution. That is a clear indication that as a country we are ready to fulfil our Constitutional commitment to equality for all.

“We are therefore calling on government to begin work on the Constitutional Convention as soon as soon as possible and to prioritise dealing with the issue of marriage equality therein. This is a key opportunity for the Government to listen to public support and legislate for equality, rather than having the issue decided in the courts.”