Monday 17 December 2018

'Let down by the country we love dearly' - Gay Irish couple speak of struggles to get passport for son

Married couple Jay O'Callaghan and Aaron O'Bryan, who live in Canada, felt
Married couple Jay O'Callaghan and Aaron O'Bryan, who live in Canada, felt "deflated" when they came into difficulty getting an Irish passport for their son Jake who was born via surrogacy

Rachel Farrell

A gay Irish couple living in Canada said they felt "let down by Ireland" when they couldn't get an Irish passport for their son, who was born via surrogacy.

Jay O'Callaghan (34) and his husband Aaron O'Bryan (35) moved to Canada seven years ago to further their careers. The pair were married in Ireland two and a half years ago after the marriage referendum, and decided they were ready to start a family back in Canada.

"After a long three years of failed IVF and tens of thousands spent, we have become a family with the addition of our beautiful son Jake through surrogacy," Jay told Independent.ie

"Canadian Law allows for both fathers to be named on the birth cert giving us both legal rights to our son."

Although their son has a Canadian passport, the couple wanted him to have an Irish passport also- but according to Jay, they were shocked to discover the difficulties surrounding it. 

"I wanted an Irish passport for my son, he has two Irish parents after all. We didn't hear anything for six months after multiple emails and phone calls. In the end I wrote them a letter, and six months later I got a call.

Jay said the information left the couple feeling
Jay said the information left the couple feeling "deflated" and they questioned whether they could ever return to Ireland under the circumstances. 

"They asked who the biological father was, and I asked why that was relevant. They told me it would be relevant under Irish Family Law, and I was shocked to discover that our surrogate and her husband could be considered the legal parents of our son at home, even though neither of them has a biological connection to him."

The Children and Family Relationships Act was signed in Ireland in 2015, just weeks before the marriage referendum. The act was designed to give same sex couples parental rights - however parts 2 and 3 of the act, which deal with parentage through donor-assisted human reproduction, have yet to be enacted. 

Jay claims the pair would have to appear in front of an Irish court with DNA tests, to prove that either himself or his husband are Jake's biological father.

"We never found out who his biological father is, it's either myself or my husband. We left it to chance. We never really wanted to know, to us both, he's our son regardless," Jay said.

"The issue then comes up with the other parent. Say for example I am the biological father - my husband would have zero rights at home. Currently, the only way around that is to apply for guardianship. My husband was mortified when he heard this.

"It's not just about a passport, it's about the legal aspect of our child, which the state doesn’t seem to recognise."

According to Jay, some friends of the family have also been in a similar situation. The couple say they want to "enjoy life" and not have to deal with what he says could be a "nine-month process" of DNA testing after years of failed IVF.

"The process of us getting here took years. All I want now is to enjoy my life with my son and my husband. It's like we climbed the top of the mountain and then there's another Everest at the top. This should be the time of our lives where we enjoy being with our child.

"You're not thinking about legislation when you have a baby, you're thinking you want to be a family. They say in same sex couples, raising children is a major decision and it's true. It is a planned decision for life for a same sex couple, it's not like we spontaneously had a child, we really thought about this."

Jay said the information left the couple feeling "deflated" and they questioned whether they could ever return to Ireland under the circumstances. 

"I felt so let down by the country, a country that I love dearly. I don’t go home four times a year for no reason, I go back because I love my family and I love the people there. I felt so deflated knowing that this barbaric law as it stands prevents myself and my husband having any legal rights at home. 

"How can we ever consider moving back to Ireland, a country I speak so fondly of here in Canada, when they're turning their backs on same sex couples?"

Minister for Health Simon Harris announced yesterday that he had sought approval to draft a standalone piece of legislation, to close a loophole and commence parts 2 and 3 of the act, alongside Children's Minister Katherine Zappone.

"This will be a very welcome step for lots of families," Minister Harris said.

"I hope to be in a position to introduce this legislation into the Dáil before the summer and commence in the autumn."

Minister Katherine Zappone said; “All families are equal and must be treated as such. The Cabinet decision is an important step to address an anomaly in law, which has caused very serious concern for families. Politicians from all sides must work together to end this discrimination as soon as possible.”

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