Gilmore in legal push to let gay couples adopt
* Legislation 'must be in place before marriage equality referendum'
TANAISTE Eamon Gilmore is set to push for legislation to allow the adoption of children by gay parents in advance of a referendum on gay marriage.
It is set to be another controversial social issue for the Coalition, which has only recently managed to get abortion legislation through the Dail.
And it is set to cause alarm among some Fine Gael TDs, who may again demand a "free vote" on the grounds that it is a matter of conscience.
A spokesman for Mr Gilmore said the issue of adoption of children by gay and lesbian parents had to be dealt with in legislation beforehand to prevent it from overshadowing the gay marriage referendum.
"Any referendum that takes place will have to be about marriage equality and not about other issues," he said.
At the moment, gay or lesbian people can adopt a child on their own, but not as a couple. Justice Minister Alan Shatter is already preparing legislation to provide equality for gay and lesbian couples in relation to guardianship and the custody of children.
Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald is also working on new adoption legislation. But cabinet agreement would be required to include gay adoption in either piece of legislation.
The cabinet is due to consider the issue of a referendum on gay marriage in the next two weeks after an overwhelming majority of the Constitutional Convention think-tank recommended that it be held.
Although Mr Gilmore has described gay marriage as the "civil rights issue of this generation", Taoiseach Enda Kenny has not declared his position on gay marriage or gay adoption.
A spokesman for Mr Kenny said he would not be commenting on the issue ahead of the cabinet discussions.
The most likely outcome is that Mr Kenny and his ministers will agree to holding a referendum – but will not give a commitment on a date.
Labour Clare TD Michael McNamara said he was fully supportive of Mr Gilmore's plan to have a gay marriage referendum. But he warned that his party should prepare a "fallback plan" to support gay marriage legislation if the referendum had not been held by October 2015.
"If a section of the Fine Gael party couldn't bring themselves to do that, there could be a free vote on the issue," he said.
Mr Gilmore promised members of Labour Youth over the weekend that there would be such a referendum during the lifetime of the Government – with autumn 2014 or spring 2015 among the possible dates.
But in an embarrassing moment for Mr Gilmore, the party's youth wing passed a motion at its annual conference in Limerick yesterday stating it had no faith in the Labour Parliamentary Party in upholding core values and no confidence in the leadership of the party after the Budget cuts.
A Labour spokesman said that when Mr Gilmore had visited, there had been a very positive reception and a pledge to have a new process involving them more in the party.
"Labour Youth are a separate organisation, and they entitled to their opinion," he said.
There is an acceptance among Labour and Fine Gael ministers that any vote will need to be carefully planned given the 'referendum fatigue' obvious in the 39pc turnout for the Seanad and Court of Appeal referendums earlier this month.