Thursday 14 December 2017

Government is attempting to keep marriage vote simple

"Frances Fitzgerald, was asked no tough questions about the Children and Family Relationships Bill whatsoever. That is a failure of journalism."
John Downing

John Downing

If it seems complicated it is because it is complicated.

But stay with us - we can untangle this one. Three interlinked things are happening right now.

The first is that voters will be asked on May 22 to decide on changing the constitution to allow same-sex marriage. The Government wants to keep this as simple as possible, essentially asking: Do you think full rights for gay people should extend to them having the right to marry as heterosexual people do?

But it knows that such a right raises questions about child custody, access, guardianship and adoption for children of a gay parent or parents. So the Government is moving to address these issues via two pieces of legislation which are inter-related.

The first of these draft laws, the Children and Family Relations Bill is currently in the Dáil. Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald hopes to have it put through the Dáil and Seanad by the end of next month.

The second piece of legislation deals with surrogacy - a process where a woman takes genetic material from other parents into her womb and gives birth to a child - and other forms of assisted reproduction, stem cell research and associated matters.

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This legislation is at a very preliminary stage but Health Minister Leo Varadkar discussed the likely shape of it on RTÉ radio yesterday morning.

In the Dáil yesterday, TDs from all the other parties struck a markedly positive note on the Children and Family Relations Bill. It suggested that Ms Fitzgerald may make her end of March deadline.

But, ironically, the only real voice of dissent came from the Government side. Former Justice Minister Alan Shatter saw several flaws in the family bill, largely where it differs from a version of the legislation he sponsored when he was in that job.

Mr Shatter also criticised what Mr Varadkar was saying about surrogacy. There is a further link here in that Mr Shatter's version of the Children and Family Relations Bill contained a provision on surrogacy when originally published. This was later taken out.

Mr Shatter's comments did not particularly help. But the Government may be able to soldier on.

Irish Independent

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