Irish equality minister supports equal marriage, and calls for reform of gay parenting law

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The Irish minister for Justice and Equality has voiced his support for equal marriage for gay couples, and said there is a need to reform and “bring clarity” to issues surrounding gay parenting.

Alan Shatter, spoke at the launch of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) Progress report launch event, to say that he would be bringing forward a bill on parenting reforms for gay and lesbian parents, and offered his personal support for civil marriages for lesbian and gay couples.

“There is a need to reform and bring clarity to issues related to parentage, guardianship and custody of children of gay couples” the minister said, speaking at the launch.

Mr Shatter went on to say that he was “presently engaged in the preparation of a Family Relationships and Children Bill which I expect will be published in 2013 and which I hope will receive all-party support in the Houses of the Oireachtas and also the support of independent Members of both Houses.”

Offering his personal support of equal marriage, he said: “I personally believe that a democratic republic that professes a commitment to the principle of equal citizenship should not continue to prevent same-sex couples from entering into a legal partnership that is legally recognised and designated as being a marriage.”

Kieran Rose, the chair of GLEN made a statement on the announcement, saying: “GLEN strongly supports the Minister’s commitment to address the absence from the Civil Partnership legislation of rights and protections of children being raised by lesbian and gay parents. GLEN will continue to work with the Minister and with all political parties and members of the Oireachtas to ensure that these gaps are addressed urgently.”

GLEN welcomes the Ministers strong personal support for equal access to civil marriage. This is a critical issues for lesbian and gay people and a key goal of GLEN,” he continued.

The Minister, acknowledged the importance of progress made through civil partnership. He stated that “Civil partnership is essentially marriage in everything but name. The law applicable to effecting a civil partnership, and the ceremony celebrated, reflects the law applicable and the ceremonial of a registry office marriage.  I understand, however, the desire that it be recognised as marriage.”

Support for equal marriage has risen substantially in Ireland, and now three quarters of the population would vote yes in a referendum to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples, a recent poll suggests.