Ireland’s coalition government has confirmed that it plans to enact legislative changes allowing same-sex partners to adopt children before the country’s planned referendum on same-sex marriage in early May.
Currently, gay people can only apply to adopt as individuals. Changes allowing gay couples to jointly adopt will be outlined in the Children and Family Relationships Bill, which the government has confirmed will be published next month.
The bill was first drafted in January 2014, with a revised draft being published last September. Observers had expected a final draft to be published by now. Events of the past few days are believed to have provided the Government with added impetus to act.
The battle over same-sex marriage has heated up in recent weeks, since the Government announced that it was definitely going ahead with a referendum on the issue.
Although opinion polls initially showed the majority of people in Ireland supported same-sex marriage, more recent polls have indicated that the vote may be closer than anticipated. A Christian campaigning group was widely mocked earlier this month for launching a campaign to protect children from hearing the ‘sound of sodomy’ in their homes.
A TV debate on the issue of same-sex marriage took place on Monday night on the Claire Byrne Live show. Alongside politicians, among those contributing was the actor Colin Farrell, who spoke in support of same-sex marriage.
The TV discussion also veered off to included talk about adoption and IVF, highlighting to some politicians complications in their campaigning on the issue.
Indicating that it perceives the issues of same-sex marriage and parenthood to be distinct from one another, the Government – a coalition between the Fine Gael and Labour parties – has today announced that the Children and Family Relationships Bill will be published in February.
Dr Geoffrey Shannon, Ireland’s Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, welcomed the announcement, telling Morning Ireland that the new legislation, ‘brings a diverse range of family types in from the cold.’
The bill will allow cohabiting couples and civil partners to jointly adopt, and allow guardianship to be extended to non-biological parents and grandparents.
In a separate development, the Government today has also announced the specific wording of the same-sex marriage referendum – a move hailed as ‘historic’ by the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN), Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) and Marriage Equality.
The referendum wording will ask members of the public if they agree with the following statement: ‘Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex’.