Irish Government: Gay couples to get parental rights ‘regardless of equal marriage referendum’

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Irish Equality Minister Alan Shatter has announced plans to establish equal parenthood rights for gay couples, regardless of the outcome of an upcoming referendum on equal marriage.

The new rules will allow couples to adopt children together, as well as establishing guardianship, custody and access rights for same-sex parents.

He is looking to include the changes in the Children and Family Relationships Bill currently being drafted, which will be discussed by the Irish Parliament in September.

The Fine Gael politician is hoping for a swift passage for the bill, allowing it to be enacted by the end of the year.

He said: “Since 1952 an individual can adopt regardless of his or her sexual orientation. It makes no logical sense where an individual who is gay can individually adopt that a couple in a civil partnership should not be able to adopt. These are issues to be addressed whether or not we have same-sex marriage.”

He added: “The issues and the needs in this area will not change should the outcome of the intended referendum on same-sex marriage support or reject the enactment of legislation to facilitate such marriages. It’s an issue that simply, come what may, we need to address.”

The Irish Government previously announced plans to hold a referendum on equal marriage at some point in 2015, but a date for the vote has not yet been set.

Polls suggest that 76% of voters in Ireland support equal marriage, though the system of referendums in Ireland has a history of unpredictable outcomes, due to the power of lobbying groups.